JOSQUIN: De beate virgine; Ave maris stella – Tallis Scholars/ Peter Phillips – Gimell CDGIM 044, 75:58 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
The Tallis Scholars are hands down the most difficult performing ensemble in the world to review. The reason is simple—they have been around for so many years and have produced such a consistent and high quality product, both on record and in the concert hall, that there is simply little to say about them anymore except “bring it on!”
Both of these canonic masses are based on plainchant themes, and De beate virgine is most likely Josquin’s most-performed mass, indeed probably the most-performed mass in the entire Renaissance period, with fully 69 disseminations, making it the most widely propagated work of its time. But the work is not a model of thematic unity, using different themes according to the different movements and becoming a slave to the liturgical texts. But the canons used are some of the most inventive he ever penned.
To the contrary, Ave maris stella presents the chant melody in a beautiful showcase, always easily understood and clearly discernible, with its eminent cohesion making it an easy choice for modern choirs.
The Chapel at Merton College in Oxford provides fine acoustics for the many felicities of the Tallis Scholars’ stirring renditions—add another winner to the Gimell catalog.
An excellent DG debut!