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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.
« After beginning his career in the scientific sector as an engineer, Maurice Bourbon became an artistic director, baritone, teacher and composer. In 1983, with Charles Ravier, he founded the vocal ensemble Métamorphoses (made up of international soloists) in Paris. With this group, he chose the path of French and Italian polyphonic music from the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Since 1987, he has directed the ensemble Coeli et Terra, a high-level amateur chamber chorus, in Lille. In 1993, he founded the Atelier International de Polyphonie Vocale in the Cévennes region of France.
In 2005, he founded an ensemble of young (aged 18-28) singers, Biscantor! In 2006, Maurice Bourbon set out to record all the masses of Josquin Desprez. This CD is the sixth of the ten that are planned, and comprises two late masterpieces by Josquin: the Missa Pange lingua and Missa de beata Virgine (a composition that had considerable success as attest the 22 manuscripts and four engravings that have come down to us).
Based on rigorous study of the scores, Maurice Bourbon's work takes concrete form in recordings whose sound power is almost archaic, reproducing Josquin Desprez's complex geometries with naturalness and 'lyricism'. For example, we hear how the master, without fearing to noticeably dilate the tempos, transforms into a spiritual calm the miraculous economy of means that characterises the writing of the Missa Pange lingua. »

Massimo Rolando Zegna

American Record Guide

« This new release includes two of Josquin’s most famous Masses. Bourbon faces very stiff competition; there are six earlier recordings of the Pange Lingua in the ARG index, including very good ones by the Janequin Ensemble (Jan/Feb 2009), the Westminster Cathedral Choir (Mar/Apr 1993, reissued Jan/Feb 2012), and an unreviewed earlier recording by the Tallis Scholars (Gimell 9). There are seven listed for De Beata Virgine, including two I own by the Theatre of Voices (July/Aug 1995) and the Tallis Scholars (Mar/Apr 2012).
As I have noted in earlier reviews, Maurice Bourbon’s ensembles tend to be small (here ten singers, including the director), and the addition of women has lightened the textures from his earlier all-male ensembles (Mar/Apr 2011 & May/June 2014). What I noticed more on this new release was Bourbon’s idiosyncratic shifts of tempo in movements and an increasing use of vocal orchestration by shifting between two voices and one voice per part. These create a very different aesthetic from most of the other recordings. In his rather arch booklet notes (in the form of a fictional dialog with Josquin), Bourbon even describes the end of the Credo of the De Beata Virgine as “a slow ecstatic waltz”.
I would still recommend the more “traditional” interpretations by the Tallis Scholars, though I also have a fondness for the timbres of the boy trebles from the Westminster Cathedral Choir. »

Métamorphoses founded in 1983, as a six member group (2 each of Soprano,Tenor, Bass), while Biscantor! a second ensemble also directed by Maurice Bourbon, has four of its members on this recording project (2 Sopranos, 1 Counter-Tenor, 1 Tenor). Both groups founded by choir director, professor of chant, singer and composer Bourbon. His third group is known by the name of Coeli et Terra, a top-level chamber choir. All three ensembles are part of La Chapelle des Flandres Association. Bourdon has penned an interesting ‘Conversation With Josquin’ essay also included is a detailed historical one with footnotes by Jacques Barbier, who is from the Centre for Advanced Renaissance Studies at François-Rabelais University, Tours.
As a composer Bourdon has composed a work entitled Déploration de Josquin (Éditions de L’Homme armé HA01-2009). Desprez seems to be central to the artistic career of Bourdon. He is also famous for his a cappella production of Bach’s motets, in Flanders.
This recording is the fourth in a series of ten dedicated to the masses of Desprez. Unknown in North America, Bourbon and his three ensembles, and CD projects are another buried treasure of France, waiting to be discovered by listeners, highly recommended. »

© 2016 Toronto Early Music News