Whereas these masses aren't among Josquin's most acclaimed today, in part because they don't "stand out" in particular ways, i.e. aren't singular works that were specifically lionized with distance, they remain two of his most polished. In contrast to more famous cycles, here we have two of perhaps Josquin's most typical masses — although one should probably separate them in that assessment from his cycles employing plainchant — but also two of his most rhythmically solid & detailed. The cycles are more comparable to those of his colleagues, but in that, they also present Josquin as a clear master of the period.
It is still kind of amazing to me where the Tallis Scholars have come after their rather inauspicious beginnings with this repertory, but this is a clear & coherent interpretation, laying out this music in an easy-to-follow fashion with no gimmickry. Handling the large-scale music of this era clearly & convincingly in matters of phrasing, rhythm, and tempo has not been easily accomplished to date, so this is another real achievement.
Over time, I've also come to more of an appreciation for these masses, particularly the first. (The first, according to the order on the program, not chronologically, develops many of the techniques originating in the second.) They fit very nicely into this recommended discography, and in fact, as a combination of repertory & performance, this might still be the most appealing Josquin disc of the moment.
To renaissance sacred listTodd M. McComb Updated: 22 May 2019