Josquin: Susato Collection

Josquin the Undead
Laments, deplorations and dances of death
Graindelavoix - Björn Schmelzer
Glossa 32117

This is another take on some of the late (& thus, in a sense, summarizing Josquin's career?) mostly-secular material published posthumously by Susato in 1545. However, it doesn't adopt the performance style of the 1540s Parisian chanson, but rather — apparently — some sort of "unediting" of that source to produce more of a 15th century feel. (But then Schmelzer also disclaims adopting a specific historical context anyway....)

And I guess the result ends up being very much what I wanted to hear in terms of Josquin songs! I've found many of these versions to be almost instantly compelling, mostly using voices, but often with some instrumental support (occasionally more prominently). The Latin (memorial) pieces are also sung compellingly (although more in the usual way). There's an overall haunting of death, perhaps, as the liner notes discuss, but in many senses, these are standard themes of the era. (Josquin's apparent consciousness of history works in both directions....)

So there's perhaps a bit of affective monotony at times, but the program as a whole is quite substantial, as well as varied within Josquin's oeuvre. This album thus always feels weighty when given a full audition — more so than some of the other Anniversary issues.... (It chooses, almost entirely, the most substantive pieces.)

In some ways, though, this is just another performance for Graindelavoix, as it sounds much like e.g. their Binchois (i.e. much earlier music) in general texture & approach. (Well, it's refined from there, particularly in terms of ornament, and male only here, but it's a very similar conception. Or maybe that remark doesn't give enough credit to the power of these newer performances....) What is different, then, is in sort of "reverse engineering" these scores. Anyway, I've been quite taken with the result (despite that Schmelzer says nothing of the details of what they did).

This ended up being the most exciting release of the anniversary year for me — an anniversary year that was strong for secular releases in general.

To renaissance secular list.

Todd M. McComb
Updated: 25 January 2022