That music composed in the 14th and 15th centuries can be enjoyed and performed today is mind-boggling. As is looking at one of Josquin des Préz’s manuscripts, close enough to conventional modern notation for even a hick like me to get an inkling of what the music might sound like. This latest Tallis Scholars release features two contrasting Masses, the mature Missa Gaudemas’s intensity set against the earlier, breezier Missa L’ami Baudichon. Peter Phillips has his three tenors sing the plainchant Gaudeamus omnes before the corresponding mass begins, allowing us to hear how the chant’s opening notes infuse much of what follows. It's like seeing a simple line drawing transformed into a Renaissance painting. The singing is technically assured and full of warmth; these performers know their stuff and want to share it with us. Listen carefully to the closing 'Agnus' and hear how cleverly Josquin uses fragments of the melody (which is printed in Gimell’s booklet). Delicious.
The Missa l’ami Baudichon is lighter in tone, much of it based on the melody of a simple French folk tune. Phillips refers the original’s 'vulgar reference', which you can read for yourself in the second line of the song, printed in full under the plainchant. Hmm. It didn't put Josquin off, and this mass is delightful. Moments like the brief final section of the Kyrie have a delicious swing. And Phillips rightly highlights the closing part of the Credo, tenors blasting out an improbably sustained high G as the other parts swirl around them. Impeccably recorded, with full texts and translations too.