Guillaume Bunel
Classica, France
December 2012

It is always pleasing to discover that it is still possible for a major but little-known composer to emerge from the shadows, and in the process reveal a whole world of unsuspected masterpieces. This is now the case with Jean Mouton, whose worth will be all the better appreciated thanks to a new recording by The Tallis Scholars, which shows him to have been an important figure in the history of music. Mouton reveals himself as a composer with a profoundly original style, quite different from that of Josquin, his illustrious and almost exact contemporary. Mouton managed to unite a pronounced taste for canonic structures, always very elaborated, with a surprising suavity of melodic line—all in a polyphony of remarkable transparency. These technical refinements never cramp the feeling of naturalness and simplicity which constantly radiates from this music so that one is surprised to discover, for example, that the Missa Dictes moy toutes vos pensées, based on a chanson by Loyset Compère, is made up of a thematic web of an unparalleled density, taking and recasting all the elements of the chanson in an act of magisterial reappropriation. And if the thematic connections between the mass and its model seem constantly to be on the verge of showing through, Mouton's facility equally lulls the listener into forgetting that the mass is made up of borrowed material. The Tallis Scholars, and their perfect phrasing, adapt themselves remarkably fluently to the diversity of the effects in this dense and beautiful programme, from the simplest two-part writing to the vast edifice for double choir (Nesciens mater) without ever losing either the clarity or the tension in the writing.