- Audio CD (Jun 5 2001)
- SPARS Code: DDD
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Harmonia Mundi Canada
- ASIN: B00005ATCX
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #49,528 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
|1. Pange Lingua|
|2. Missa Pange Lingua: Kyrie|
|3. Missa Pange Lingua: Gloria|
|4. Missa Pange Lingua: Credo|
|5. Missa Pange Lingua: Sanctus & Benedictus|
|6. Missa Pange Lingua: Agnus Dei I, II & III|
|7. Missa La Sol Fa Re Mi: Kyrie|
|8. Missa La Sol Fa Re Mi: Gloria|
|9. Missa La Sol Fa Re Mi: Credo|
|10. Missa La Sol Fa Re Mi: Sanctus & Benedictus|
|11. Missa La Sol Fa Re Mi: Agnus Dei I, II & III|
Plainchant is basically another word for chant of Gregorian or other styles, being monophonic and in free rhythm. The particular piece here, Pange lingua, was originally a hymn for the feast of Corpus Christi. The first track on this CD presents the plainchant version without embellishment; perhaps as one would have originally heard it in a medieval monastery.
--Missa Pange lingua--
This mass, set for four voices, was possibly Josquin's last mass setting of his long career. Likely dating as late as 1520 (it wasn't published until 1539), it is a mature piece, no longer chasing after musical puzzles to be solved, but rather free and flowing in form. Gustave Reese (quoted in the liner notes) describes it as a 'fantasy on a plainsong.' Soprano is highly used in this mass.
--Missa La sol fa re mi--
This mass is an earlier one, published in 1502, and sets the task of setting a mass based on medieval scales (think here 'Sound of Music' and the do-re-mi) - the pattern of five notes, A-G-F-D-E is evident throughout the parts of the mass, particularly in the tenor. This is a technical and sophisticated masterpiece.
All of these pieces are wonderfully performed, and taken together, they make a wonderful snapshot of Roman Catholic/high Anglican sensibility from the time of triumphant church, just before the Reformation (but still influencing high-church worship and music to this day). They also serve to show a wonderful history of development from the simple to the complex, and the virtues of the music at both stages.
Being internationally acclaimed, the Tallis Scholars' CDs typically present their commentary and texts in English, French, German and Italian; that is true of this disc, which unfortunately does not contain the text of the mass or the plainchant Pange lingua. The cover art also typically represents visual arts contemporary with the compositions - here it is The Deposition, painted circa 1510 - 1515, a piece by Gerard David, who was an historical contemporary of Josquin des Prez. One drawback is that there is little information on the Tallis Scholars or Peter Phillips in the booklet.
--The Tallis Scholars--
The Tallis Scholars, a favourite group of mine since the first time I heard them decades ago, are a group dedicated to the performance and preservation of the best of this type of music. A choral group of exceptional ability, I have been privileged to see them many times in public, and at almost every performance, their singing seems almost like a spiritual epiphany for me, one that defies explanation in words. Directed by Peter Phillips, the group consists of a small number of male and female singers who have trained themselves well to their task.
Their recordings are of a consistent quality that deserve more than five stars; this particular disc of pieces of plainchant and Josquin des Prez deserves a place of honour in the collection of anyone who loves choral music, liturgical music or Gregorian chant, classical music generally, or religious music. This particular recording was made at Merton College, Oxford, in 1986.
There are three works on this disc, and there is a separate style of recording for each. We are evidently dealing with a very clever recording consultant here. The plainsong Pange Lingua, one of the most marvellous of the plainchants, is given an echoing acoustic suggestive of the standard image of hooded monks as one might encounter that in, say, a Vincent Price film. I buy the effect wholeheartedly, except to say that it certainly does not recall to me the acoustic of the impressive but hardly monastic chapel of Merton College Oxford. Meretricious or not, the effect has at least one out-and-out admirer, and my pleasure was further enhanced on hearing the last two stanzas, the dreaded Tantum Ergo of so many excruciating Victorian settings, sung to its great original melody.
The Missa La sol fa re mi, (the notes A,G,F,D,E in modern parlance and cantance) seems to be regarded as a triumph here by commentators in general. Whether this short canto fermo originated in a parody of the phrase 'Lascia faremi' or 'Be missing', supposedly associated with some unknown but clearly important personage, is not established. The singing and mastery of style that we have come to associate with so many Oxford and Cambridge groups in recent years are here blessed with a recorded sound that is a masterpiece of clarity and natural resonance. Something changes for the Missa Pange Lingua. I cannot myself perceive here any unsuitable affinity with the style of Palestrina. The vocal line itself is most un-Palestrina-like, and the rendition has a slightly nervy alertness that would not suit Palestrina to my ears. What is conspicuously different is the recorded sound, this time more constricted and slightly more distant. If this was a misjudgment, it was at least a misjudgment in the right direction, as the style of this Mass is less 'winning' than that of the other, and more austere. I am reluctant to be judgmental about this, given the obvious virtuosity of the recording engineer. Whether I like the different effect or not, I can't suspect it was unintentional.
A notable issue one way or the other, and heartily recommended.
I would love to hear them do an album of Josquin's rowdy, and sometimes near-bawdy secular music.