Classical CD Reviews

Works of RICHAFORT, DES PREZ, GOMBERT, VINDERS – Cinquecento Renaissance Vokal – Hyperion

One generation removed, Richafort devises a tribute and emotionally affecting work in honor of his supposed teacher.

Published on July 27, 2013

Works of RICHAFORT, DES PREZ, GOMBERT, VINDERS – Cinquecento Renaissance Vokal – Hyperion

JEAN RICHAFORT: Missa pro defuntis ‘Requiem’; JOSQUIN DES PREZ: Nymphes, nappes/ Circumdederunt me; Faulte d’argent; Nymphes des bois/ Requiem aeternam; Miserere mei, Deus/ BENEDICTUS APPENZELLER: Musae Jovis; NICOLAS GOMBERT: Musae Jovis; JHERONIMUS VINDERS: O mors inevitabilis – Cinquecento Renaissance Vokal – Hyperion CDA67959, 70:00 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

This fascinating album brings together a number of composers who were influenced by, or knew, the great Josquin des Prez. Josquin, whose legendary status was already beginning to take shape a number of years before his death, was the most famous European composer before Palestrina, and his use of ingenious technical devices and an unsurpassed sense of melodic expression ingratiated him into music lover’s hearts well into the last century. Richafort (c. 1480 – c. 1547) who might have studied with him—no concrete evidence exists to that fact, but a lot of supposition—used many times snippets of Josquin’s compositions in his own work as tribute to the master. This disc gives us one of his most famous, the  Missa pro defuntis, along with some motets by three other composers who also pay tribute to Josquin.

As a prelude a few of the works that Richafort culls from are also given so we can better understand how the tribute process worked in the Renaissance. Those Josquin works are not specifically religious in nature but as so many items of musical interest in that time period, the line between sacred and secular is often crossed and themes found in the secular compositions easily spill over into topics that at the very least can be considered proper to the spiritual realm.  Gombert, Appenzeller, and the esoteric Vinders all offer works of exceptional vitality and nuanced expression that make for some exceptional listening.

But the two main works here are the Miserere mei, Deus by Josquin and the Mass of Richafort. The former, dating from the composer’s time at the court of Ferrara in 1503-04, is an amazing work of inspired technique, truly virtuoso and highly emotive, designed for Ash Wednesday and most likely fitted into one of the more extensive meditative periods during the late Holy Week services. The Mass, an impressive, lengthy, and considered application of clarity and formal structure, is Richafort’s masterpiece, and a glorious tribute to Josquin’s path-breaking and nascent technical fluidity.

The all-male Cinquecento sing these pieces with a rare authority and passionate pleading of the emotional and resonantly sonic glories of the music. The sound is close and airy, with a lot of warmth and perspective.

—Steven Ritter

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