JOSQUIN. Miserere mei Deus —
Cappella Amsterdam, Daniel Reuss
Funeral Motets & Déplorations
cappellaamsterdam.nl | allmusic.com
Release date: 26 October 2018
Déploration sur la mort d'Ockeghem
1. Nymphes des bois / Requiem æternam [3:30]
2. Nimphes, nappés / Circumdederunt me [2:19]
In principio erat Verbum
3. In principio erat Verbum [2:41]
4. Fuit homo missus a Deo [4:35]
5. Et verbum caro factum est [1:46]
6. Absolve quæsumus, Domine [3:39]
7. Absalon, fili mi [3:30]
Planxit autem David
8. Planxit autem David [3:54]
9. Montes Gelboe [2:17]
10. Sagitta Jonathae [3:24]
11. Doleo super te [2:42]
12. De Profundis / Requiem æternam [4:33]
Miserere mei, Deus
13. Miserere mei, Deus [5:33]
14. Auditui meo dabis gaudium [4:13]
15. Domine, labia mea aperies [5:00]
16. Pater noster / Ave Maria [7:05]
17. Musæ Jovis · Nicolas GOMBERT [5:20]
30 December 2018
Todd M. McComb
And I suppose that my continued refrain regarding motets, and so why so many groups are focusing only on mass cycles, has become tedious: Yet motets have long been regarded as Josquin's most significant output, so their neglect is particularly vexing. And so I was happy to see a new program finally appear: Indeed, even seeing the announcement reminded me of the Herreweghe classic (which was, coincidentally, relatively new when the EM FAQ project began, and so my first Josquin recommendation there), but the result felt more like a journey back in time than merely that: I don't mean it in a positive sense either, but rather as a regression in attitude & approach toward the music, i.e. as a renewed attempt to approach it from a later (largely Baroque, i.e. modern) perspective.
Reading the liner notes in particular felt almost like my work had never existed: From trivial complaints such as never mentioning Absalon, fili mi at all (and so its more recent attribution to La Rue), to the pat absurdity of claiming that people wouldn't have been able to hear two melodies at once, they're utterly dismissive of a medieval orientation (& without even mentioning the possibility, almost as if part of a "there is no alternative" Thatcherist cant...). The performance follows suit (or perhaps the notes reflect the performance): The earlier repertory is performed in a wretched manner, with absurd ahistorical tuning & ficta, and indeed muddled phrasing that obscures the middle parts almost completely.
This jumbled mess of turgid rhythmic interpolations & cadential "tics" does then start to sound almost appropriate by the time of the more motivic Miserere (as the program proceeds mostly chronologically), i.e. the title track & without cantus firmus.... One can barely pick out the tenor elsewhere, and so of course the various chants are obscured, and moreover, rather than emphasizing intervals around the tenor, tuning is allowed to move around (including there, in the "hold" voice) in order to emphasize a smooth, soprano-dominated texture. I haven't read any other discussion of this interpretation to this point, but I have no doubt that it'll be hailed by Baroque-oriented listeners (& people who just love Western imperialism, whatever else they might claim) who — pace e.g. the complaints regarding tuning by Ars Antiqua, which is at least according to a well intended approach, if not fine execution — want their music to sound "angelic" & placidly unchallenging, while anything premodern should indeed seem obscure & pointless. The result is a triumph in this sense!
Do I know anything about who Daniel Reuss is? No, other than that he has recorded later music to this point, and that this is supposed to be the start of his series on the Renaissance.... The whole thing comes off as an unrepentant glorification of imperial modernity to me, and so quite far from clashing sorrows.... I mean, to be fair, there are some nice moments where some of the distinctive sweep of the famous motets reveals itself, but in obscuring most of the musical detail, that also comes off as imperious in & of itself. I try not to get too much into negative rants here, but "disappointing" doesn't begin to describe the resulting impact. (And yes, it also makes for something of a meditation on the passing of internet — & so general — relevance for non-commercial sites such as this. None of this should surprise me, yet hearing it really did offend me in a pretty basic way. Boo!) To return to the "back in time" observation, then, this album doesn't prompt me to look back to c.1500, but rather back to c.1980 — or perhaps (itself in distorted form) to c.1600. The latter seems to have been the intent.