JOSQUIN / The Clerks' Group
Missa Faisant Regretz · Motetti from De Passione ... B (1503)

AS&V Gaudeamus 302


from Motetti de Passione ... B (1503)

1. Tu solus qui facis mirabilia   [4:02]
2. Domine, non secundum   [7:44]

3. Ave verum corpus   [8:23]

4. O Domine Jesu Christe   [4:07]
5. Christem ducem ~ Qui velatus   [15:08]

Walter FRYE
6. Tout a par moy   [7:15]
c, e, f

Missa Faisant regretz
7. Kyrie   [2:21]
8. Gloria   [3:56]
9. Credo   [5:50]
10. Sanctus & Benedictus   [5:57]
11. Agnus Dei   [4:23]

The Clerks' Group
Edward Wickham

Carys Lane (a), Rebecca Outram (b) — soprano
Lucy Ballard (c), William Missin (d) — alto
Christopher Watson (e), Matthew Vine (f) — tenor
Edward Wickham (g), Robert Macdonald (h) — bass

> Produced by David Trendell
Recorded by David Wright (Gemini Sound)
Recorded in St Andrew's, West Wratting 14-16 March 2001

The dating game should not be entered into unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly — especially when it comes to the music of Josquin Des Prez. The changes in our understanding of Josquin's biography, and in particular the revelation that the Josquin of Milan Cathedral in the 1460s was not the famous composer, throw into doubt some traditional assumptions about the development of Josquin's style, and indeed the whole history of early Renaissance music. They also encourage us to think differently about the way the style and technique of a talented composer such as Josquin might grow and mature.

Central to these assumptions are a group of works which were thought to be Milanese in style: simple and direct, they are mostly chordal and are intended to declaim the text in an audible, rhetorical fashion. Amongst the works in this category one could list Tu solus qui facis mirabilia, Christum ducem/Qui velatus and O Domine, Jesu Christe, all of them anthologised in Petrucci's 1503 publication Motetti de Passione . . . B. The conjunction of this supposedly "simple" style with the young Josquin's presumed employment at Milan Cathedral reinforced the impression that these works were examples of a composer finding his feet. Fortunately, the banishment of the Milan Cathedral Josquin from the composer's biography enables us to reflect upon and revise the model of a composer moving from simple, homophonic composition to more elaborate polyphony (is it not possible that Josquin, of all composers, could compose in different styles, to suit different clients, liturgies and circumstances, at the same time?) and to recognise in these apparently modest works the same sparks of genius that illuminate Josquin's most ambitious works.
It has been argued that Tu solus qui facis mirabilia was composed in two stages. Certainly the way it has been preserved in manuscripts and prints of the early 16th century suggests that the first half of the motet enjoyed a reputation independent of the second, and in some sources this one section motet is included as part of Josquin's own Missa dung aultre amer, to mark the elevation of the host at Eucharist. That the quotation from the song Dung autre amer appears only in the second section, supports the hypothesis that Josquin added this second section when Petrucci — for commercial publishing purposes — extracted the first half from its original context. The song quotation was therefore deliberately written in to this new, freestanding motet, to provide a nostalgic reference to the original context of the motet.

Domine, non secundum is the most elaborate of the Josquin motets in Petrucci's 1503 collection, with its contrasts in scoring and occasionally expansive setting of the text. Richard Sherr has convincingly argued for this motet's Roman provenance, and certainly the "Milanese" aspects of the motet are confined to a short passage powerfully accompanying the words "Quia pauperes facti sumus nimis". Moreover the ending, with its melismatic treatment of the final word '"tuum" is more reminiscent of the fantasia-like endings of Johannes Ockeghem than of the Milanese tradition. Josquin takes his lead here from the plainchant melody which is paraphrased throughout in the top line. The same technique is employed in the Ave verum corpus, which alternates two and three voice passages, the latter simply augmenting the original two-voice music with a decorative contratenor.

With O Domine Jesu Christe we return to the declamatory, homophonic approach to text setting which we witnessed in Tu solus gui facis mirabilia. Often described as a "motet cycle", this is a setting of the Prayers of St Gregory, which in five sections implores the crucified Christ for redemption. The rhetorical repetitions of the text find suitable support in Josquin's music, and yet nothing here is exactly repeated. Rather, the work is woven together by means of a series of musical "rhymes", the most recognisable of which is the rhythmic formula which sets the opening words of each section, "O Domine Jesu Christe." As the cycle progresses, these rhymes become less exact, and the fifth section develops into a fully polyphonic motet in itself, together with an eccentric and florid "Amen".

The rhyming of melodies and rhythms is even more crucial in another motet cycle, Christum ducem/Qui velatus. This setting of Passiontide hymns by St Bonaventure is made up of short, repeated melodies and duos which nevertheless form a larger pattern of themes connecting the whole cycle. Whether these are instantly recognisable by the listener or performer is not as important as the fact that this lengthy work creates a sense of order and coherence through allusion and repetition. Indeed, this is a fine example of prayer in music: in the tradition of prayers which quote familiar texts, St Bonaventure's hymn allude in turn to other hymns such as Conditor alme siderum and Aetema Christi munera, while Josquin's frequent use of upper and then lower voice duos, echoing one another, is not unlike responsorial types of prayer such as the litany. It is understandable that Petrucci should wish to include such a work in a volume which he hoped would be bought by amateur musicians, possibly of modest ability, who wanted musical materials to use in small-scale, domestic devotions.

Missa Faisant regretz takes its title and inspiration from a song by the hugely influential English composer Walter Frye. At the opening of the second section of the rondeau Tout a par moy, the words 'faisant regrets" are intoned in the tenor and superius using a simple four-note formula consisting of a falling third, a rising tone and a falling tone. Unpromising material upon which to base an entire mass cycle, one might think, but Josquin exploits it with extraordinary facility and inventiveness, such that the phrase permeates almost every bar of music.

This is necessarily a compact mass setting, but Josquin is nevertheless able to introduce a range of compositional procedures into his five movements. The Kyrie, Gloria and Credo all draw with varying degrees of faithfulness on the plainchant mass settings (Mass XI in the case of the Kyrie and Gloria, and Credo l), but these quotations seem curiously incidental, as if they were intended merely to decorate. The main focus of our attention throughout is the "faisant regrets" motif, and its progress through the music. In some climactic passages, such as the triple-time section at the end of the Gloria, the motif sounds in all voices, forming tight, concentrated tessellations of sound. At the opening of the Sanctus Josquin combines the "faisant regretz" motif with a melodic/rhythmic formula — a falling third, in dotted rhythm — which could almost be described as Josquin's fingerprint motif. Finally, in the Agnus Del, the "faisant regretz" motif is combined with another, even more innocuous, melodic formula consisting of a rising and then falling semitone (or tone, depending on the context and the rules of musica ficta), and both serve as an accompaniment to a rendition in the superius of the entire Tout a par moy tune. A masterpiece of minimalism, Missa Faisant regretz still acknowledges the generously tuneful song from which it was born.

A note on performance and editions

Performing editions of tracks 1 to 5 were initially based on those in the collected edition, by Albert Smijers. These in turn are largely based on the readings in Petrucci, Motetti de Passione ... B of 1503. Minor changes to underlay and musica ficta were made in the course of rehearsal. On track 2, we have followed the lead of Charles Hamm, who favours the text underlay of MS San Pietro 880 to that of Petrucci. The ordering of the motet cycle Christum ducem/Qui velatus requires some comment. This has in the past been recorded and edited with the Christum ducem section at the end, so that the cycle is titled simply Qui velatus. Christum ducem enjoyed a manuscript and publishing career independent of the other sections of the cycle, and since it is in fact the first of the hymns in St Bonaventure's rhymed office of the Passion, it has been suggested that Christum ducem was composed first and the other five sections added later. Furthermore, we feel that the ending as recorded here is more satisfactory, both from a musical and a textual point of view. For advice on these points, I thank Bonnie Blackburn whose paper on the subject was read out at a Josquin study session as part of the I.M.S. Conference in 1997.

The performing edition of track 6 was prepared by Edward Wickham and based primarily on the reading in the Mellon Chansonnier. For the mass (tracks 7 to 11), The Clerks' Group rehearsed and recorded solely using a facsimile of the manuscript Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek MS 15495 (fol 33'-47), copied in Flanders between approximately 1508 and 1511. It is our conviction that working from the musical notation of the Renaissance and in the format which singers of the period adopted (gathered around a single choirbook) provides the opportunity for insights into the character of the music which no modern edition, however sensitively transcribed, can ever deliver. We hope that this recording has benefited from that opportunity.

© Edward Wickham, 2002