Josquin: Missa Quem dicunt homines

The Spirit like a Dove
Apollo5 / Ingenium Ensemble
VCM 122

The Missa Quem dicunt homines (a4) didn't figure into the Tallis Scholars series or (presumably) the Ensemble vocal Cappella series, and so this program presents something of an appendix.

The mass cycle itself was excluded from the New Josquin Edition, and has been excluded from Josquin's output on stylistic grounds for about 50 years, but the present album makes the case that it's really by Josquin. Indeed, it's attributed quite clearly to him in its only source, opening a series of cycles written to celebrate Richafort & his motet. And as the discussion asks, who else could possibly have written this mass? (The passagework simply screams "Josquin!" to me.) As far as the exclusion, that was never a matter of quality, as this is clearly the most masterful setting in its source, but about technique per se: Supposedly, Josquin didn't write parody masses (or use other elements of the style here). But then, one starts to wonder, at least in these restrictive terms, if Josquin composed much of anything late in life....

In any case, I obviously find the inclusion of this mass to be at least intriguing.... And it's quite a fine setting, featuring fast & energetic motives within a polished rhetorical context. Regardless of attribution, it would appear to be a rather singular work, with both a jagged quality to the individual lines & a balanced overall flow leading into strong (Josquin-like?) climaxes.

The performance itself can be a bit loud & boisterous, not so different from the Tallis Scholars' style, but with more stereotypical choral dynamics, perhaps. Although it can seem a little rough at first, it does ultimately come through clearly (e.g. with a potent sense of rhythm & coherent pulse...), particularly on repeated exposure. It's a quality reading, bringing out the overall form (including elevation motet, not unprecedented for Josquin...) strongly. The reading of the lengthy motet Factum est autem, included after the mass (& unrelated to the arguments above...), is also well-conceived & executed (& was itself a first recording).

And I continue to value this program for linking Josquin's style with that of some of his younger contemporaries (especially as it's a style that I enjoy...), i.e. for projecting a different sort of history....

To renaissance sacred list.

Todd M. McComb
Updated: 27 January 2022