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Josquin Desprez

Messes Pange lingua, de beata Virgine

Métamorphoses and Biscantor ! vocal ensembles
Directed by : Maurice Bourbon


Messe Pange lingua

Agnus Dei

Messe de beata Virgine

Agnus Dei

Recording : l’Homme armé éditions
CD available at Editions de L’Homme armé :
La Roque 48110 Molezon

Recorded from the 1st to the 5th september of 2014 in Javols Church (Lozère, France)
Sound recording, art direction, editing, mastering : : Jean-Marc Laisné
Cover illustrations : Yves Reynier
Pictures : Nathalie Taillandier
Graphic conception : Marc Guerra
All pictures and illustrations : rights reserved

We thank Monsieur Malavieille, Javols mayor, and Le Regimbal hotel for their hospitality.

Production : L’Homme armé éditions
La Chapelle des Flandres
Traduction : Marcia Hadjimarkos
Distribution : NewArts International

AR 2015-1

Josquin Desprez...

No complete recording of the masses of Josquin Desprez, one of the greatest musicians of all time and a luminary of Franco-Flemish music, has ever been made.

In 2006 Maurice Bourbon decided to remedy the situation and began his complete Mass series, entitled Josquin l’Européen, in order to do justice to this towering figure of the world’s musical heritage.

Maurice Bourbon is passionate about Josquin’s writing, which brings together grandeur and meticulous attention to detail, like a Gothic cathedral whose superb and lofty heights seem at first glance to overshadow the details of its reliefs and intricate carvings. The Pange lingua and de beata Virgine masses, Josquin’s veritable testament, provide aweinspiring examples.

The Pange lingua mass, Josquin’s last great work, was composed between 1514 and 1517. Its unity stems from the Pange lingua hymn, which provides a thread of continuity and appears in its entirety in the final Agnus Dei. The mass combines tranquil sweetness and lyric flights, and is sustained by the rules of composition Josquin consistently used to shape his works: a variety of canons (at the octave, the fifth, and the fourth), “machines” (the “inner workings” distributed among four voices, which echo each other exactly or in accordance with the degrees of the mode), and alternating homophonic sections.

But unity is a far cry from monotony: laments and majesty follow each other in the Kyrie; tightly woven mechanisms are featured in the Et in terra pax, Patrem omnipotentem, Et resurrexit, Et in spiritum, and the Osanna; the Qui tollis, Et incarnatus est, Sanctus, and Benedictus are inward-looking; and of course the Agnus Dei is highly lyrical.

The mass de beata Virgine was published by Petrucci during Josquin’s lifetime, in 1514.

In contrast to the unity of the Pange lingua, this mass presents great diversity. It was not composed in 1514, however, but made up of fragmenta missarum written during the composer’s mature years and largely devoted to the Virgin Mary. This variety is evidenced in the choice of modes (D for the Kyrie and Gloria, E for the Credo, G for the Sanctus and Agnus Dei); the number of voices used (four for the first two movements, five for the last three); and the ranges, which are extremely high for the superius (the highest voicepart), except in the Credo. Josquin’s polyphonic expertise is apparent in the lines, the soaring heights, the interwoven canons (including a very long one written at the fifth, which stretches uninterrupted from the beginning of the Credo to the end of the mass); polyrhythmic “machines” (3 against 2 rhythms are frequent, and a difficult and slow-moving 3 against 4 appears in the Qui cum patre). Atmospheres and moods are equally varied and include intricate writing in the Et in terra pax and Patrem omnipotentem; the rushing “machines” of the Amen of the Gloria; and the calm generosity of the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei.

But the work is dominated above all by a wonderful vitality, which reflects that of the composer at the time of its writing and carries the listener irresistibly to the final Dona nobis pacem, which rises to the heavens... A vivid work!

Maurice Bourbon invited six experienced members of the Métamorphoses ensemble and four young and promising singers from the Biscantor! ensemble to take part in these two works: three sopranos, one mezzo-soprano, one counter-tenor, three tenors, one baritone and one bass. This group allowed him to reconstitute the varied tessitura of the de beata Virgine mass, to highlight certain themes, and to bring to life the long lines in a single breath.

The press covers it !

Classic Club
We were in direct live on the 05th of April 2016 in the Classic Club magazine, and in the En piste ! magazine from Emilie Munera
L'éducation musicale

The Record Bin

« The accompanying text – an original initiative of the AR RE-SE label – first invites record collectors to a highly imaginative dialogue (dated 3 January 2015) between the conductor, Maurice Bourbon, and Josquin: 'Do you know that I'm the same age as you were when you composed the [Missa] Pange lingua? That's perhaps why I'm so sensitive to it and had such a good time conducting it.' This will be confirmed by the listening. The conductor adds that he 'worked with passion on the tempi and equivalences for nearly a year' and, further on, specifies that, for the canon at the fifth in the 'Benedictus', 'the singers demonstrate astounding mastery in the piano handling...'Josquin Desprez – born in Beaurevoir c.1450 and died in Condé-sur-l'Escaut on 27 August 1521 –, this Franco-Flemish musician so admired by Martin Luther and eminent master of the Renaissance, was in fact a 'European before the term existed'. He composed numerous motets and Masses (parody, on cantus firmus, in canon), amongst other works.
In his late Missa Pange lingua, according to Jacques Barbier, he takes up the melody of the eponymous hymn 'used as a main theme in all sections of the Mass but in no way as a cantus firmus'. Josquin called on note against note counterpoint and syllabic treatment for greater intelligibility of the text, especially for the articles of the 'Credo'. As for the polyphony, it is fairly homogenous. Benefiting from remarkable acoustics, the voices of the Métamorphoses and Biscantor (quartet) vocal ensembles stand out with their fullness, accuracy, and warm timbres. The Missa de beata Virgine, in the sphere of influence of Marian worship, exploits the high tessituras (perhaps evoking Heaven) and is based on Gregorian melodies. Josquin speculates on the number of voices: 2, 4, 5; canon technique in the 'Credo' with, as J. Barbier judiciously emphasises, 'the humorous indication "The first goes before, then the before goes behind" (final part). The 'Sanctus' and 'Agnus Dei' bear the marking 'you will fast [on] the four beats'. Excellent liturgical paraphrase.
On the one hand, the Missa Pange lingua – often performed nowadays – is striking for its simplicity and limited means; on the other hand, the Missa de beata Virgine, without a main melodic theme, is marked by logic that is more liturgical than musical. From all points of view (booklet with imagined dialogue, excellent analysis, exceptional interpretation): a disc to be acquired imperatively.  »

Edith Weber.