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Josquin: Missa Hercules Dux Ferrarie - Missa D'ung aultre amer - Missa Faysant regretz


Gramophone Early Music Award 2021

"With this ninth and final release in our Josquin Mass cycle, we come to three of his greatest works. Together they form a perfect showcase for a genius who felt challenged to make each setting different."  Peter Phillips


The Times - Geoff Brown *****

"At his death in 1521, Josquin des Prés was considered the most illustrious composer in Europe and a genius creator of polyphony. Dips in fame followed, though his name still meant enough in 1984 to earn a place in this paper’s Christmas quiz, admittedly in a question categorised as “ultra difficult”. Two years later, Peter Phillips and his vocal group The Tallis Scholars launched a series of award-winning albums charting Josquin’s eighteen authenticated Mass settings. This one is the ninth, and last.Two golden qualities leap out at once. One is the glorious singing. Tonal purity, articulation, ensemble spirit: everything here is sheer perfection, but it’s never the perfection that chills. Phillips’ unaccompanied voices, mostly numbering nine, bring passion and warmth to every note, however complex the counterpoint’s web.The second is the forceful appeal of Josquin’s music. If Phillips wanted to end the series with a bang, he couldn’t have chosen a better work than the “Missa Hercules Dux Ferrarie”, written for Duke Ercole I of Ferrara, a classy arts patron who ultimately became Lucrezia Borgia’s father-in-law. Must have been interesting. Josquin’s musical games can be wildly intellectual, but his cleverness never lessens the music’s emotional power; while another in Phillips’s final selection, “Missa D’ung aultre amer”, displays Josquin’s equal wizardry when being simple and direct. This is a heavenly album."

Independent - Michael Church *****

"This CD marks the triumphant completion of The Tallis Scholars’ cycle of Masses by the fifteenth-century composer Josquin des Prés. And as the choir’s director Peter Phillips points out, the first and greatest of these works reflects both the vanity of its dedicatee and the felicitousness of its construction. The Duke of Ferrara liked to hear his name sung obviously and often – he’d have fitted in well in the era of Donald Trump – so the composer took his name and title and turned their vowels into music, to create a neat little eight-note melody. He then ordains that this melody should be sung 47 times, mostly by the tenors. The effects are surprisingly intricate, and the singing here has a lovely warmth and freshness; the other two works have subtly different colourings. The acoustic of the Oxford chapel in which this music is recorded is perfectly appropriate."

BBC Music Magazine - Kate Bolton-Porciatti - Performance***** Recording *****

With this almost valedictory recording, The Tallis Scholars complete their monumental nine-disc project to record all of Josquin’s Mass settings, and their journey concludes with three aptly monumental works: the Missa Hercules Dux Ferrarie, into which Josquin ‘chisels’ the name of his patron (Ercole, Duke of Ferrara), and two masses based on French chansons – D’ung aultre amer and Faysant regretz.

Phillips’s reading of the Ferrarese work is fluid and supple, and there’s a gentle momentum even in the more contemplative sections, such as the hushed Sanctus or the sublime Agnus Dei. The Scholars’ sound is lean and clear: every strand of the musical web is beautifully illuminated, and the text is carved with a sculptural sharpness, allowing the Hercules Dux Ferrarie motif (based on the vowels of Ercole’s Latinised name) to stand in high relief. Even in the fuller passages, the effect is never mushy – thanks, also, to Gimell’s limpid recording in the silvery acoustic of Merton College Chapel, Oxford.

The text is to the forefront, too, in the Scholars’ account of Josquin’s Missa D’ung aultre amer – a liquid and melancholy setting inspired by Ockeghem’s hauntingly wistful song. Its prayerful Credo is so articulately uttered here that the words seem more spoken than sung, while the Benedictus motet ‘Tu solus qui facis mirabilia’ is voiced with prayerful solemnity. The disc’s final work, the Missa Faysant regretz, is based on a four-note motif that Josquin repeats and reworks to obsessional effect, making a mesmerising final chapter to this unforgettable musical odyssey.

Gramophone - Edward Breen - Editor's Choice

"This ends a hugely enjoyable project begun in 1986, not originally envisaged as a complete cycle of Josquin's Masses but which spawned consistently superb releases until completion became inevitable. This final disc is described by Phillips as "a perfect showcase for Josquin's genius" and presents a trio of early-middle works offering some exquisite textures. Who better to navigate such extraordinary music than the masters of tranquillity and clarity themselves, The Tallis Scholars? Their exacting style delineates the distinctive sound world of each Mass while maintaining a consistent sonic beauty.

Missa Hercules Dux Ferrarie is based on eight notes derived from the vowels of the Duke's name. As Phillips explains: "Ercole I d'Este of Ferrara ... liked to hear his name sung obviously and often." The tenors shimmer brightly on this repeated tune while the superius (uppermost) line is gentle and understated. As ever, one greedily awaits the canonic passages in The Tallis Scholars' performance since their glassy serenity lends itself to such textures. The six-voice Agnus Dei is sublime.

Missa D'ung aultre amer must be Josquin's shortest Mass, mostly syllabic, with telescoped texts creating a concise texture brightened by an attractive wide upwards leap in the top voice borrowed from Ockeghem's motet on which it is modelled. Knowing this older composer's importance to Josquin, it's a delight to hear his music infusing this final disc.

Missa Faysant regretz uses material drawn from an earlier rondeau by Frye or Binchois. Here the Agnus III is stunning: Josquin's inventiveness in creating such a finely spun texture over a repeating tenor part is extraordinary. This glossily perfect performance pings with relish and crackles with energy. A superb end to a magnificent cycle of recordings."

Early Music Review - Richard Turbet

"This is the final disc in The Tallis Scholars’ complete recording of Josquin des Pres’s masses. Perhaps it is just as well, because this reviewer is running out of superlatives for the music itself and for this choir’s performances of it."

Click here to read the full review.

Diapason - David Fiala

"And speaking of culminations, the interpretations of the impeccable Tallis Scholars come over on this disc as surprisingly measured, sober, at times even held back. Far from the sonorous and rhythmic exaltation one tends to associate with the contrapuntal whirlwinds which these masses can be, it's their more hidden qualities of serenity and limpidity which Peter Phillips searches out. The choice to include the ecstatic Tu solus qui facis only reinforces this impression.

Typically, in the geometric counterpoint of the Missa Hercules Dux Ferrarie, with its tautly drawn motifs, Phillips finds a rare suppleness, which culminates in the magnificently drawn out lines of the Agnus dei. And again, the extraordinary Amen of the Credo of the Missa Faysant regretz (which Phillips tells us is his favourite passage in all the masses of Josquin) fascinates simply by the pervading calm, under the exuberance.

An unmissable programme, sung by artists at the top of their profession: a god-like culmination indeed."

Translation: Gimell.

Financial Times - Richard Fairman

"The journey has taken nearly 35 years. When Peter Phillips and his Tallis Scholars recorded a disc of Josquin's Masses in 1986, they did not intend to work through a complete cycle, but here is the ninth and final disc that does just that. Its arrival is timely. Next year will mark the 500th anniversary of the composer's death and there will be a host of activities to commemorate the event, including a live cycle of all his masses by the Tallis Scholars over four days next August at the Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin.

Josquin des Prez, or more simply Josquin, lived at a time when composers were starting to move freely around Europe. Born probably in present-day Belgium, he learned his craft singing in choirs, including the papal choir in Rome during the 1490s. He spent the main part of his life in the service of royal and aristocratic patrons in France and Italy, where he composed a wide range of sacred music and popular chansons.

This final disc includes three masses roughly from Josquin's early middle age — Hercules Dux Ferrarie, D'ung aultre amer and Faysant regretz — that are regarded as among his best. The Tallis Scholars made their name for choral excellence in the music of this period and the intervening three decades have not dimmed their brilliance."

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ResMusica (France) - Benedict Hévry

"... a superb conclusion to a major achievement on disc, without any equivalent. A third of a century was necessary for the realisation of this monumental cycle, with its beautiful unity in diversity. We can only praise the careful production; the suave vocal scorings, which constantly inform the natural gravity of Josquin's writing with a unique hedonism of sound; and indeed the scholarship which went into the editing of the manuscripts - which can be followed for free in pdf form on the label's website - to better understand the magic of such masterly writing and singing. In short, with the conclusion of this cycle, the upcoming Josquin year has already been marked by a major achievement.

Click here to read the full review.

Limelight (Australia) - Tony Way

"How appropriate that the name of Hercules should be invoked in this disc, which represents the conclusion of a truly Herculean labour of love: the recording of all 18 Masses attributed to Josquin over nine discs, taking 34 years to complete.

Coming to the end of this absolutely remarkable odyssey, the listener can only be filled with admiration for Phillips’ vision and the enormous flexibility of The Tallis Scholars, who for nearly half a century have maintained their unchanging commitment to vocal and musical excellence. Having completed the crowning glory of these Herculean labours, what could possibly come next?"

Click here to read the full review.

Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik - Uwe Schweikert

"With this CD, the Tallis Scholars' conclude their complete recording of all masses by this most important master of Renaissance polyphony, just in time for the 500th anniversary of Josquin’s death. They started this project thirty-four years ago.

Once again, it's exciting to witness Peter Phillips succeed at unifying his singers under a single interpretive banner, combining the perfect homogeneity of the sound with the structural transparency of each individual voice. Mathematics becomes magic – an event that makes Josquin’s rigorous art immediately present in all its strangeness."

Click here to read the full review.

BBC Radio 3 Record Review - Andrew McGregor - Record of the Week

"Timeless music, beautifully sung, impeccable phrasing and intonation - and we have become used to the high quality of the recordings over the years, that luminous sense of space and depth"

Listen here from 2 hours 25 minutes and 15 seconds

BBC Radio 3 Record Review Extra - Hannah French - Record of the Week

"They have saved some of the best until last, three masses from Josquin's early middle age, a perfect showcase for this genius composer and The Tallis Scholars' trademark luminosity."

Listen here from 51 minutes and 50 seconds

The Guardian - Fiona Maddox

"The Tallis Scholars and their director, Peter Phillips, have reached the end of an enterprise begun in 1986: to record all 18 masses by the French Renaissance composer Josquin des Prez (c1450/1455-1521), just ahead of his 500th anniversary year. This ninth and final release (Gimell), recorded in the chapel of Merton College, Oxford, brings together three dating from early middle age reckoned to be his greatest works: Missa Hercules Dux Ferrarie, written for Duke Ercole I d’Este of Ferrara and making musical play of his name; Missa D’ung aultre amer, short and dense in comparison, and Missa Faysant regretz. Phillips, whose impassioned liner notes guide the listener into Josquin’s rarefied but sublime sound world, compares this last to a string quartet of Bartók in its close argument and dazzling economy. As always with the Tallis Scholars, it’s immaculately sung. All told, a mighty achievement."

Classica (France) - Nicolas Boiffin

"The recordings of the three masses on this final disc show all the qualities we noticed in the preceding volumes, one of which (Missa Mater Patris, Classica no. 225) was awarded a CHOC last year. Again one admires the fluency of the melodies, the quality of the phrasing and the intensity of the sonorities, all realised by two singers on each vocal line. The homogeneity to be found throughout is all the more impressive in that the singers change from one mass to another, yet their style of interpretation remains remarkably consistent and coherent. This is an ensemble of reference." - Graham Rickson

"Peter Phillips began recording Josquin with the Tallis Scholars in 1986, this ninth CD bringing the sequence to a radiant close. That the Tallis Scholars’ performance is faultless is a given, and there’s such warmth and expression to their singing. Final episodes of long running series aren’t usually this involving, and in a week where few of us have had much sleep, this disc will offer consolation and comfort. Immaculately produced, with scholarly notes and full translations."

Click here to read the full review.

MusicWeb - Brian Wilson

"This crowning achievement of a superb cycle joins my short-list for Recordings of the Year."

Click here to read the full review.

The Sunday Times - Stephen Pettitt

"This final instalment of the Tallis Scholars' complete Josquin mass settings project, begun in 1986, includes three mid-career masterpieces. The Missa Hercules Dux Ferrarie revolves around an eight-note, repeated tune derived from the duke's name, while the Missa Faysant regretz plays obsessively with a four-note motif from a Burgundian song. But the main fascination is the music's ingenious polyphonic weave. The pithy Missa D'ung aultre amer, a touching homage to Ockeghem, comes between. Peter Phillips directs expressive performances."


Josquin: Missa Hercules Dux Ferrarie

Josquin: Missa Faysant regretz

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