Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Josquin - Missa Malheur me bat etc. - The Tallis Scholars/Phillips

Rating: 5/5

Superlative Josquin

This is another superlative Josquin disc from the Tallis Scholars.  In his excellent notes Peter Phillips says that these are two of the finest mass settings to come from any pen.  This may seem rather a grand claim when you think of subsequent masters of the form: Palestrina, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and many other truly great composers, but I think it is quite justified.  Josquin was one of the very greatest of composers, these are two of his finest works, and they are simply magnificent: beautiful, evocative, dramatic and structured with astonishing musical brilliance.  I love them.

The Tallis Scholars give a performance to match the greatness of the music.  They have shown a real affinity with Josquin throughout their 30-plus year recording career (their disc of Missa Pange Lingua won the 1987 Gramophone Record of the Year Award - still the only early music recording ever to do so and now part of an excellent reissue, The Tallis Scholars Sing Josquin, and it remains as strong as ever.  For several years I have owned and thoroughly enjoyed the Clerks' Group's recordings of these two masses, but there is such poise, balance, fluency of line and sheer beauty of sound from The Tallis Scholars on this disc that it simply eclipses other recordings.  It is one of their very best performances - and that's really saying something.

In addition to all this, Peter Phillips's notes are excellent.  They are scholarly but very readable and give a fascinating insight into the amazing structure of these works.  It's a simply fantastic disc, and I recommend it in the warmest possible terms.

(Incidentally, I think this was the last recording that Tessa Bonner made with the Tallis Scholars before her tragic death.  What a beautiful and fitting monument this makes for us to remember her by.)

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