Jean Richafort: Requiem


Few composers of any age have enjoyed the widespread admiration and unanimous praise of successive generations as Josquin Desprez. He is considered the greatest creator and innovator of musical composition during the Renaissance, and for some half a millennium his music has stood the test of time. He is remembered as much for his own works as for his lasting influence on those of his contemporaries and students, demonstrated in many of the compositions in tribute of ‘the master’ featured in this programme. The programme’s centrepiece is Jean Richafort’s Requiem mass (missa pro defunctis), a tribute that employs several of Josquin’s compositional devices.

The King’s Singers once again demonstrate their versatility and trademark precision in this new programme devised by leading early-music scholar and conductor David Skinner.


What people are saying

"The centrepiece is Jean Richaford’s Requiem, with flowing counterpoint spiced by rich dissonances. But the most astonishing work is Jacquet de Mantua’s Dum vastos, weaving together five Josquin ‘hits’."  The Times, April 2013

"All the Kings’ Singers’ performances are admirably manicured"  The Guardian, April 2013

"Those voices emerging from sublime textures and tugging at the heartstrings have their own special quality, and I’ve found myself increasingly admiring the qualities of this performance the more I’ve delved into its expressive beneficence." Musicweb International, July 2013

The King’s Singers
David Hurley, countertenor
Timothy Wayne-Wright, countertenor
Paul Phoenix, tenor
Christopher Bruerton, baritone
Christopher Gabbitas, baritone
Jonanthan Howard, bass

Release date:11th Mar 2013
Order code:SIGCD326
Barcode: 635212032626

July 2013

Recordings of Franco-Flemish composer Jean Richafort’s Requiem are like buses: you wait years for one, and then three come along at once. The King’s Singers face stiff competition from The Huelgas Ensemble (whose 2002 recording has just been re-issued at budget price) and, particularly, from the haunting account by Cinquecento (reviewed in these pages back in December 2012).

Written in memory of Josquin des Prez, Richafort’s Requiem, with its fluid, spiralling lines and sonorous polyphony, is one of the masterpieces of Renaissance vocal music. Under the informed scholarly guidance of David Skinner, this performance is characterised by the King’s Singers celebrated clarity of sound, immaculate intonation and ensemble. With just six male voices, one to a part, they create

a glorious resonance – the effect is nothing short of ethereal and other-worldly. The King’s Singers tempos are fleeter and the timbre is brighter than that of Cinquecento, who really plumb the depths of this sepulchral score.

The Requiem forms the centrepiece of a fine collection of musical tributes to Josquin by his pupils and colleagues, all of which produce a reflective intensity. One of the most striking works – performed here from a new edition is by the French Renaissance composer Jacquet of Mantua: his motet Dum vastos Adriae fluctus entwines five of Josquin’s melodies into a lustrous tapestry. In short, this is music of high seriousness heard in performances of the highest order.

Performance 4 stars, Recording 5 stars, Performance 


BBC Music Magazine, Kate Bolton

June 2013

It is useful to be reminded just what a beautiful sound the King’s Singers produce. Of course, the group has none of the original singers left who succeeded in making the group a household name, but more recently they seem to be returning to the more serious business of authentic music-making. In this CD they are working with renowned musicologist and director David Skinner to explore some relatively obscure names as they compile a programme of music dedicated to Josquin. What is striking is the uniformly high standard of the music and the impeccably stylish singing. The group’s first countertenor, David Hurley, possesses one of the most remarkably effortless male alto voices around today, and while we don’t hear nearly enough from him as a soloist, the compensation is his superb work with the King’s Singers. Two lovely deplorations on the death of Josquin by Appenzeller and Gombert, in which David Skinner has traced touching homages to aspects of Josquin’s compositional style, open proceedings and Josquin’s own magnificent Salve Regina follows before we bear two of the most interesting works on the CD – Dum vastos Adriae fluctus by Jacquet of Mantua and the exquisite seven-part O mors inevitabilis by Hieronymous Vinders, both with textual and musical references to Josquin. The crowning glory of the CD is Richafort’s darkly superb six-part Requiem, one of the finest of the post-Josquin period. It was perhaps not unusual for a master such as Josquin to have had so many pupils and admirers, but to have had so many mark your passing and with music of such stunning quality must be unique. A telling postscript is supplied by Josquin’s own chanson Nymphes, nappes, whose canonic melody is quoted by Richafort and Gombert. Masterly programming and masterly singing.

Early Music Review, D. James Ross

July 2013

As far as I’m concerned, this release goes straight up against that of vocal ensemble Cinquecento on the Hyperion label, which was one of my Recordings of the Year in 2012 (see review). Not only do these two discs share the Richafort Requiem but just about every other track as well. The Hyperion disc gives us 70 minutes to Signum’s under 60, so we start at something of a disadvantage, the only works not covered by Cinquecento being the Jacquet of Mantua Dum vastos Adriae fluctus and the Josquin Salve regina

The King’s Singers vocal sound is in general rounder and warmer than Cinquecento’s, who sing pretty much entirely without vibrato. This is not to say that King’s singing is laden with wobble, by no means, but this is an essential part of their colour and manner of projection. Which you prefer is a matter of taste of course, but I found myself liking both. If it wasn’t for the Cinquecento disc I would be endorsing this one without reservations. The King’s Singers’ reserved expression and sense of tender intimacy is clear from the outset, the programme revealing these qualities in Appenzeller’s lovely four-part Musae Jovis. What you have from this recording is more of a sense of religious devotion, characterised by the praying hands on the cover. Cinquecento give more of a ‘concert’ performance – exquisite and perfect, but reaching out and captivating you as an audience rather than giving the impression of cloistered monks performing for their own circle and to the glory of the Deity. This is a subtle and subjective impression, and the King’s Singers are no means small-scale the whole time, but with a less resonant acoustic and a generally quieter dynamic they create a deliciously personal atmosphere. 

In terms of actual interpretation and performance The King’s Singers are uncontroversial, and timings do not differ to any remarkable extent between the two versions. Diving straight into the main work, Richafort’s Requiem is delivered with all of the beauty of sound and little chills of dissonance you could hope for. Where Cinquecento’s homogeneity of sound creates a marvellous ‘whole’, The King’s Singers’ more diverse vocal character creates its own moments of magic, and if you are not hooked by the remarkable tonal clashes in the opening Introitus then you may need to consider a soul transplant. These moments are given a touch of emphasis, but there is nothing mannered or artificial about the performance. 

Which do I prefer? In the end my choice would be Cinquecento, but by a very close margin and by no means exclusively. With the Cinquecento performance you can lose yourself and mentally bathe in the music, allow yourself to be transported into heavenly realms, feel your earthly woes recede into insignificance. It is for this reason that I would stick with the Hyperion disc in a Richafort cook-off. If on the other hand you want to be moved by this music on a more human scale or earthly plane, then The King’s Singers hit the spot. Those voices emerging from sublime textures and tugging at the heartstrings have their own special quality, and I’ve found myself increasingly admiring the qualities of this performance the more I’ve delved into its expressive beneficence. 

As you would expect, the recording is impeccable, all texts are given with English translations in the booklet, and there are useful notes by David Skinner whose scholarly contribution to this fine release is also acknowledged. 

Musicweb International, Dominy Clements

June 2013

It is heartening that the King’s Singers should devote themselves to a work as comparatively obscure as Jean Richafort’s Requiem. Equally heartening is it that this presumed memorial to Josquin should now boast three recordings of a very high standard. The King’s Singers’ programme replicates nearly exactly that of Cinquecento, issued just a year ago (Hyperion, A/12). Both present the work alongside other tributes to the great master by Vinders, Appenzeller and Gombert. The new disc also includes a less well-known offering by Jacquet of Mantua that manages to string together a few ‘soundclips’ from Josquin’s greatest hits: that this approach is particularly topical today only adds to the appeal.

As though on cue, Harmonia Mundi has reissued the Huelgas Ensemble’s recording of the work in a rather less coherent programme entirely devoted to the composer. When only this was available, one had to make do with Paul Van Nevel’s eccentric decision to double certain voices at the octave, for which the beauty of the Huelgas sound doesn’t quite compensate. You might say that it’s easier to accept it now that two other recordings exist, which both play things much straighter. These are nicely contrasted in timbre, Cinquecento darker and more burnished, the King’s Singers clearer and brighter. I’d suggest Cinquecento’s timbre and previous experience better suit them to the repertoire and that their local decisions are better judged: the final turn to triple time in the Gombert, for instance, is a little too jaunty with the King’s Singers. In short, each of these recordings is worthy, in its own way, of a deeply involving and inventive piece: I’m grateful to have heard all three. 



Gramophone, Fabrice Fitch

May 2013

“When the notes tells us that this is probably the most substantial sixteenth-century Requiem, unmatched until Victoria’s half a century later, it’s easy to believe in this new recording from The King’s Singers. Their effortless blend and the true intonation across the work’s six vocal parts is impressive.”

 “[And while I still have a soft spot for the Huelgas Ensemble on Harmonia Mundi and the quite different sound of Cinquecento on Hyperion] it’s the context The King’s Singers provide for the mass that’s so telling here, preceding it with music by composers showing their admiration for Josquin, in imitation of his music. I particularly enjoyed the piece by Josquin’s pupil Jacquet of Mantua: Dum vastos Adriae fluctus.”

BBC Radio 3, CD Review

April 2013

An unexplored, if slightly morbid Renaissance treasure trove, this CD presents memorials composed by Josquin’s colleagues after the Flemish master’s death in 1521. The centrepiece is Jean Richaford’s Requiem, with flowing counterpoint spiced by rich dissonances. But the most astonishing work is Jacquet de Mantua’s Dum vastos, weaving together five Josquin ‘hits’. 

The Times, Richard Morrison

April 2013

Josquin des Prez, the most influential composer in the Flemish school of the early 16th century, died in 1521. Over the following decade, a whole generation of composers, many of them former pupils, wrote memorial works, often quoting material and techniques from Josquin’s own music. The King’s Singers’ disc of those tributes centres on perhaps the most substantial of them: the Requiem in Memoriam Josquin Desprez composed by Jean Richafort (c1480–1550). Richafort, who worked at both the French court and in Bruges, may well have been a Josquin pupil, too, and his requiem, which borrows themes and devices from the older man’s chansons, was one of the most successful of its time. But some of the shorter pieces grouped around it by composers who are very little known today contain the most striking music here, especially Hieronymus Vinders’ seven-part O Mors Inevitabilis and Jacquet of Mantua’s densely polyphonic Dum Vastos Adriae Fluctus. All the Kings’ Singers’ performances are admirably manicured – perhaps just a little too much so at times, when a bit more gutsiness would have been welcome.

The Guardian, Andrew Clements

  1. Musae Jovis ? 4 – Benedictus Appenzeller – 5.47
  2. Musae Jovis ? 6 – Nicolas Gombert – 5.31
  3. Salve regina – Josquin Desprez – 4.37
  4. Dum vastos Adriae fluctus – Jacquet of Mantua – 7.52
  5. O mors inevitabilis – Hieronymus Vinders – 2.51
  6. Requiem in Memoriam Josquin Desprez: Introitus – Jean Richafort – 5.15
  7. Requiem in Memoriam Josquin Desprez: Kyrie – Jean Richafort – 3.37
  8. Requiem in Memoriam Josquin Desprez: Graduale – Jean Richafort – 5.11
  9. Requiem in Memoriam Josquin Desprez: Offertorium – Jean Richafort – 6.39
  10. Requiem in Memoriam Josquin Desprez: Sanctus & Benedictus – Jean Richafort – 3.15
  11. Requiem in Memoriam Josquin Desprez: Agnus Dei – Jean Richafort – 2.33
  12. Requiem in Memoriam Josquin Desprez: Communio – Jean Richafort – 2.44
  13. Nymphes, nappe?s – Josquin Desprez – 2.46