Josquin: Master of Musicians


Songs and Instrumental Music by Josquin des Pres, his pupils and contemporaries.


What people are saying


"..a disc I have already enjoyed many times and plan to keep near me"



"I recommend it strongly"

Early Music Review


“‘… many imaginative touches, and interpretative subtlety in abundance …”

Early Music

Musica Antiqua of London
Philip Thorby (director)
Alison Crum – John Bryan – Jacob Heringman – Roy Marks
Rebecca Miles – Jennie Cassidy – Belinda Sykes – John Potter – Robert Evans

Release date:22nd May 2000
Order code:SIGCD025
Barcode: 635212002520

Early Music Review

‘… marvellous music, sung and played with just the right style and musicianship:
I recommend it strongly.’


‘An elegant, vivaciously presented anthology … attractively performed … a disc I have already enjoyed many times and plan to keep near me.’

Early Music

‘… many imaginative touches, and interpretative subtlety in abundance … musicians blend instruments and voices in a manner which has become their trademark … this very impressive collection manages to say something new about Josquin – a noteworthy achievement.’

Music Web – June 2002

The Josquin influence was quite amazing and far-reaching. He was a very great composer but his dates (c.1455-1521) fall outside the remit of too many music lovers. He was technically astonishing, prolific and inspirational, and very versatile. Not enough attention has been given to his secular music. This CD redresses the balance. Even so, it is not completely satisfactory, as I shall point out shortly.

The plan is, to take a popular song of the renaissance, which may or not be by Josquin and to demonstrate reworkings of it by various composers including Josquin himself. So, for example, Josquin develops the anonymous song “?Plusiers regretz’ into the so much more moving “?Mille Regretz’. Then we hear it as a three-part instrumental arrangement by Gerle followed by one in four parts by Susato.

The songs are performed either by soloists or by two, three or four voices and the texts are supplied and translated.

There is a very interesting 2,000 word booklet essay by John Bryan, one of the instrumentalists, in which he comments: “The starting point for many of Josquin’s chansons was the ‘cantus primus factus’ a tune that already existed.” This may be a folk song or a song by “another composer, like Hayne van Ghizeghem’s ‘De tous biens pleine'”. Josquin sometimes just adds a part and sometimes transforms it completely.

Another interesting example is Josquin’s four-part setting of ‘De tous biens pleine’ where the viols play a wondrous counterpoint whilst the lute plays the melody betwixt and between them. The instrumental work throughout is a constant pleasure, but perhaps the recorder might have been exploited a little more to create a greater variety.

But what about the vocal performances on this CD? I will give you some examples.

Two viols join the wonderful basso profundo, Robert Evans, in ‘Comment peult avoir joye’ in Isacc’s arrangement and that is immediately followed by Jennie Cassidy and John Potter in a four-part arrangement of the same song by Josquin. Actually the beautifully expressive but cool voiced Cassidy is ideal and quite delightful in this repertoire. She shines in the wonderful ‘Dulcis exuviae’ by Josquin, again with viol accompaniment.

John Potter is a regular with all kinds of early music groups. I am not always so impressed by his tone quality and expressiveness but in Josquin’s five part ‘Faulte d’argent’ setting, he is excellent and light and with his usual perfect diction. In this song he is with Belinda Sykes. When hearing her voice I have to pinch myself as a reminder that this is not Jantina Noorman resurrected from retirement. This was particularly so in the four-part setting by Josquin of the rather crude song ‘Bergerotte savoysiene’ which, Musica Reservata-like, she sings to the accompaniment of three crumhorns. (In fact they recorded in the mid-70s under Andrew Parrott). I can’t say that I always enjoy her performances. Sometimes the nasal approach is inappropriate but when it works as, in this song, it is great fun. Some of my favourite moments are when all four voices sing unaccompanied as in the lively ‘Fama malum’, the catchy ‘El Grillo’ and the famous melancholy of ‘Mille Regretz’ – all by Josquin.

The disc ends with a piece written by his pupil Hieronymous Vinders on the death of his master and is based on his master’s song ‘Le villain’ played immediately before it – and quite beautifully – by the consort of viols.

So, much here to enjoy for all early music enthusiasts and a reminder of what I call the ‘nitty-gritty’ of Renaissance music with some pieces not previously available.

Gary Higginson

Early Music, November 2000

The vicissitudes of the Josquin canon have preoccupied scholars for many years. We can blame 16th-century printers – probably including Petrucci himself – who seemed happy to pass of spurious pieces as Josquin’s, knowing that his name would help sell their publications; yet in our time the marketing of CDs reveals more than a vestige of this attitude. The full title of Master of Musicians: songs and instrumental music of Josquin des Pres, his pupils and contemporaries (Signum SIGCD025, rec 2000), from Musica Antiqua of London directed by Philip Thorby, is accurate enough; but the first phrase is writ very large, and the composer’s name, in the same font as the remainder, is in bold type; and the whole s fronted by the great man’s portrait.

Musica Antiqua of London’s disc, is, among other good things, a superb exercise in programming. They concentrate on the secular music, principally (but not exclusively) that of Josquin’s later years. All the old stalwarts are there: Mille regretz, Petite camusette, Faulte d’argent, El grillo, Bergerotte savoysienne, Adieu mes amours and still more. The recital is organised thematically into sets, with Josquin’s pieces balanced by contrasting settings from other composers. The moment-to-moment connections are crucial in maintaining the flow of the recital; the potential for bittiness is great in a programme of 38 tracks in under 68 minutes. But this potential danger is happily defused. I enjoyed the way the anonymous Plusieurs regretz introduces the more famous Mille regretz, the more leisurely presentation of its themes giving the impression of a prelude. There is a gutsy Bergerotte Savoysienne (Jennie Cassidy and crumhorns), a wistful Se j’avoye Marion, with a hint of the desire more explicitly stated in another, franker version of the text, and a very moving Adieu mes amours (both with John Potter and viols); a sober, all-vocal Fama malum (Belinda Sykes and Robert Evans making up the number) whose fanfare-;like exordium is nicely judged. In short, there are many imaginative touches, and interpretative subtlety in abundance. Only one decision, motivated by the set of La tricotée, seems strange: I mean the inclusion of the much earlier-sounding Belle, tenés moy la promesse; yet Jennie Cassidy sings so beguilingly that the aesthetic instinct gladly overrides the scholarly. And the momentary shift in style cleanses the ear.

Thorby’s musicians blend instruments and voices in a manner that has become their trademark. And while I characterised the performances as having interpretative subtlety, the vocal quartet project the music very incisively. These British-trained singers tend to eschew the cultured manner of singing on which they were brought up – so often associated with performances of Josquin – in favour of a gamier, brainier sound that is more overtly expressive and usually more declamatory (a rather listless Pauper sum ego being the only exception). John Potter’s voice is instantly recognisable, but here he dons a different garb from his Hilliard Ensemble persona; this is a treatment to his versatility, both technical and interpretative. No less distinctive is Belinda Sykes, who has worked with Potter on several recordings; you can hear the chemistry at work in the lovely six-voice setting of Se congie prens, in which they take the canonic parts. Just occasionally Sykes’s tendency to overproject lends her delivery a certain roughness, and La tricotée is hammed up one notch too many for my taste. But the musician’s unreverential attitude seems to me a very healthy thing, and it gives the secular Josquin a face-lift that suits him wonderfully.

I have hardly mentioned the other composers on the disc, most of whose contributions are rendered instrumentally. The disc’s presentation (abetted to some extent by the liner-notes) tends to give them the status of a “B team”, and it put me in mind of Howard Brown’s withering faint praise in Music in the Renaissance: ‘they [Josquin’s contemporaries] suffer only in comparison to him’. For those scholars who have worked closely on those contemporaries, there is about this attitude more than a whiff of the bandwagon. Besides, the musical evidence presented here gives an infinitely more favourable impression: the opening track, a rendition on the viols of an Agnus Dei from Isaac’s Mass Wohlauf gesell von hinnen, is not only a breathtaking tour de force but spellbindingly luxuriant counterpoint into the bargain – dare I say it, worthy of Josquin himself (an impression reinforced by a very elegant, seemingly effortless performance). But would Isaac be bitter? Whatever the case, this very impressive collection manages to say something new about Josquin – a noteworthy achievement.

Fabrice Fitch

  1. Comment peult avoir joye: – Agnus Dei: Missa Wohlauf gesell von hinnen ? 5 – Isaac – [2:04]
  2. – ? 3 – Isaac – [1:11]
  3. – ? 4 – Josquin – [1:11]
  4. Se congi? prens: – ? 4 – Japart – [1:25]
  5. – ? 3 – Agricola – [1:35]
  6. – Recordans de mia segnora – Josquin – [1:27]
  7. – ? 6 – Josquin – [2:01]
  8. Robin et Marion: – Si j’avoye Marion ? 3 – Josquin – [1:00]
  9. – Tordion – Le Roy – [0:49]
  10. – Petite camusette ? 6 – Josquin – [0:51]
  11. Dido: – Fama malum ? 4 – Josquin – [1:51]
  12. – Dulces exuviae ? 4 – Josquin – [2:34]
  13. De tous biens pleine: – ? 3 – Josquin – [1:09]
  14. – ? 4 – Josquin – [1:14]
  15. La Triquot?e: – Belle, tenes moi la promesse ? 3 – anon – [2:50]
  16. – Je me complains ? 5 – Josquin – [2:32]
  17. – La tricotea ? 3 – Alonso – [2:06]
  18. Bergerotte savoysienne: – Bergerotte savoysienne ? 4 – Josquin – [1:41]
  19. – Bergeret sans roche/Reprise ? 4 – Susato – [2:21]
  20. Si j’ay perdu mon amy: – ? 4 – de Orto – [1:24]
  21. – ? 3 – Josquin – [2:25]
  22. – ? 4 – Josquin? – [0:58]
  23. Mille regretz: – Plusieurs regretz ? 4 – Anon – [2:35]
  24. – Mille regretz ? 4 – Josquin – [2:02]
  25. – Mille regretz – Gerle – [2:17]
  26. – ? 3 – Susato – [1:58]
  27. – Pavan Mille regretz ? 4 – Susato – [1:39]
  28. Pleine de deuil: – ? 5 – Josquin – [3:09]
  29. Pauper sum ego: – Pauper sum ego ? 3 – Josquin – [1:29]
  30. – Faulte d’argent ? 3 – F?vin – [1:02]
  31. – Faulte d’argent ? 5 – Josquin – [1:25]
  32. – Faulte d’argent ? 6 – Willaert – [1:50]
  33. – Adieu mes amours ? 4 – Josquin – [1:25]
  34. – Adieu mes amours – Spinacino – [2:37]
  35. – El grillo ? 4 – Josquin – [1:17]
  36. Epitaphium Josquin: – Le villain – Josquin – [2:32]
  37. – Lamentatio super morte Josquin des Pres – Vinders – [3:00]