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Quite a good discussion on choir sizes here

Choir size in Renaissance Polyphony
Oh yes, I remember that thread now. I agree that was a good discussion. I had forgotten about our discussion of Dufay's Requiem where he had asked for "12 or more" singers . Even so, that wasn't common practice at Cambrai Cathedral, where they normally didn't use more than two singers on a part. Plus, a mass for the dead may have been be viewed & composed as a separate case, considering the content and probable slower tempo of the music (it wasn't until Antoine Brumel's 1500 Requiem that a Dies Irae section was added to the requiem mass). But yes, that's a three part work, which probably meant four singers on a part.

However, I don't know about the 6 singers on a part at the Sistine Chapel. That's seems like an awful lot. The Cantoria doesn't look nearly big enough to accommodate that many singers judging from the picture that Jennifer Bloxam offers in her lecture on Josquin in Rome. But maybe they didn't always sing in the Cantoria, and could at other times be placed around the large chapel for certain works? Or, then again, we may be back to Joshua Rifkin's baseball analogy, that the numbers of the players on the team roster (or choir list) doesn't mean that they were all on the field at the same time during a game, since only 9 players are part of a starting line up in baseball.

Thanks for reminding me of that thread.
 

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cheregi writes, "I do happen to know from email exchanges with Rebecca Stewart that the Cappella was rebooted without her involvement, and she does not regard the group's current incarnation as being at all connected to her own deeper principles and aims regarding performance of modal polyphony, which can B) be found here - apologies for the long article, but I recommend at least skimming it as it is extraordinarily interesting - outlining, almost, a whole spiritual relationship to sound in general..."

That's interesting that you emailed her, and got a response!

I explained in my previous post what I see as the similarities & differences between the old Cappella Pratensis and the group today, for what it's worth. That Rebecca Stewart has her own convictions and beliefs and sees her approach as being more "deeply principled" than CP today doesn't surprise me. Certainly, she is committed to her own vision & mission of singing this music in a more deeply spiritual way, as a strict form of worship, which is admirable, and she may be right to do so. Thanks for the link. I've only just skimmed it, but I'll have to take a closer look later.

cheregi writes, "The conclusion I draw from these two points is that 'the past is a foreign country', effectively, and that the field of plausibility is wide open - not that Josquin may have a cultural background in common with contemporary Indian or Arabic classical musicians, but that his aesthetic criteria may easily be as foreign to ours (though not necessarily in the same ways) as ours are from a contemporary Arabic or Indian classical musician."

I agree that "aesthetic criteria" changes over time, as do practices & expectations. But that's what scholars and period instrument makers are for!, to try and work out all these changes and articulate them clearly. & I think most of them do a good job. But of course they don't always agree with each other, at least, not all of the time (& for me, that's when it gets interesting).

Thanks for your clip to music of the Japanese Imperial court, I found the music fascinating. Curiously, the Japanese trumpets? don't sound all that different from a Renaissance shawm...

cheregi writes, "All that said, though, actually there is a separate discussion to be had, legitimately, about the influence of Arabic musical traditions on medieval Europe. Medieval and later instruments such as the lute, rebec, guitar, naker, and shawm are all called by transliterations or corruptions of Arabic names (al-‘ud, rabab, qitara, naqqara, zamr), and the instruments themselves are extremely close to the Arabic designs - we have no reason to believe playing techniques were not also imported. Medieval troubadour poetry is extremely closely modeled on poetic forms from Muslim Spain, themselves of course adapted from broader Muslim-world traditions. And as far as I understand, there's mounting evidence to suggest that many early plainsong melodies originate in the near-east - again, why not singing technique and ornament as well?

Yes! I agree. & I should have mentioned Muslim Spain, which of course had a huge influence on Renaissance Europe. Are you familar with the expression, "the luck of the Arabs"? It comes from the Arabs having been lucky enough to have plundered the contents of the library of Alexandria, which led to their later advancements in physics and mathematics. As a result, the Italians who developed linear, pictorial perspective, for instance (including Leonardo da Vinci), were reading the Muslim Arab mathematician, astronomer, & physicist, Hasan Ibn al-Haytham, or Al Hazen on optics. Of course, there must be similar parallels between certain Arab texts and Italian Renaissance music--given the strong connection between music and mathematics, but I'm not familiar with them, and you seem to know more about the subject than I do.

However, that doesn't change my mind on Josquin's music in relation to ornament. Obviously, I believe the 1562 anecdote is true & authentic & have explained why it makes sense to me in relation to the perfection of Josquin's music. So, we differ in that regard. But I get and appreciate your points.

However, I do agree with you and Mandryka that voice type is a much more open subject. All we really know, for sure, is that the human voice hasn't changed in 500 years. So, unless there are any ancient texts that discuss the singing techniques of the Renaissance, which I know nothing about, then the subject seems to be wide open.
 

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One more thing: I wanted to add that the musicologist who compared Josquin's motet "Miserere, mei Deus" (a setting of Psalm 50) to Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel frescoes, whose name I couldn't recall in one of my previous posts, was the American musicologist, Edward Lowinsky. Here is what Lowinsky wrote in his edition of the Medici Codex, which includes Josquin's "Miserere mei, Deus":

"Here we have a work of a power, an intensity, a vision, a greatness of conception, and a religious fervor fully comparable to, and in some aspects perhaps exceeding, Michelangelo's work."

That of course is high praise.

By the way, speaking of both Capella Pratensis and the Medici Codex, I believe they are the only ensemble to ever record the codex, on their CD entitled, "Vivat! Leo: Music for a Medici Pope", under the leadership of Joshua Rikfin. It's a favorite CD of mine, and can be heard on You Tube:
. Interestingly, the compilation of music in the Medici Codex is thought to have been selected by Josquin's friend, the Franco-Flemish composer Jean Mouton (who includes one of his own very beautiful Marian motets, Nesciens Mater, which is essential listening, in my view). You can't get much better than that.
 

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But of course they don't always agree with each other, at least, not all of the time (& for me, that's when it gets interesting).
Oh, absolutely, I completely agree. Uncertainty is to me in the abstract more exciting than certainty. The thing is I think there are specific incentives around which kind of research is more likely to be widely accepted or even which ideas are more likely to be investigated in the first place, and they don't always have to do with truth - for example, I believe the market for Renaissance music recordings includes a lot of people who really just want their Josquin as generically 'pretty' as possible, so it is probably harder for a group like Graindelavoix or Beauty Farm to get a foothold, and this also impacts which of the variously conflicting research does get amplified. Also, in general, the voices available to sing on early music recordings are voices trained within a contemporary western conservatory context, who can't overnight adapt their technique based on new research, especially with something as complex as ornamentation - Bjorn Schmelzer, I believe, has put an enormous amount of effort into assembling the set of voices that make sense for his understanding of the music...

Curiously, the Japanese trumpets? don't sound all that different from a Renaissance shawm...
Oh, absolutely! That's a great connection. I wonder what the similarities are in terms of construction.

Yes! I agree. & I should have mentioned Muslim Spain, which of course had a huge influence on Renaissance Europe. Are you familar with the expression, "the luck of the Arabs"? It comes from the Arabs having been lucky enough to have plundered the contents of the library of Alexandria, which led to their later advancements in physics and mathematics. As a result, the Italians who developed linear, pictorial perspective, for instance (including Leonardo da Vinci), were reading the Muslim Arab mathematician, astronomer, & physicist, Hasan Ibn al-Haytham, or Al Hazen on optics. Of course, there must be similar parallels between certain Arab texts and Italian Renaissance music--given the strong connection between music and mathematics, but I'm not familiar with them, and you seem to know more about the subject than I do.
I did not know that expression, or its origins, but that's fascinating! I know in a general sense about the enormous Arab contribution to European science and mathematics, but I don't have that much really specific knowledge...

However, I do agree with you and Mandryka that voice type is a much more open subject. All we really know, for sure, is that the human voice hasn't changed in 500 years. So, unless there are any ancient texts that discuss the singing techniques of the Renaissance, which I know nothing about, then the subject seems to be wide open.
Funnily enough, I have seen some discussion of the possibility that differences in diet and nutrition may have effected even the biological nature of the human voices available in the Renaissance... but this was very speculative and I don't think should be taken too seriously! Just something I found amusing.
 

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That was an interesting article, thanks for pointing it out.

For others, here's a link,

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/06/21/the-musical-mysteries-of-josquin

Alex Ross also wrote a brief "listening guide" to Josquin in The New Yorker (with no actual suggestions for recordings, as far as I can tell),

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/a-listening-guide-to-josquin-desprez

P.S. By the way, I should add that The New Yorker only allows a brief free access to the article, without a subscription. So, it's best to read the article all the way through the first or second time you click on it, because after that, you won't be granted access (as I tried to go back to print it out, & couldn't do so).
 

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Discussion Starter · #49 ·
I enjoyed the Alex Ross article very much, so much so that I'll probably read it again and made a PDF copy just in case. Feel free to PM me if you have trouble accessing it.
 

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After a bit of a lull, a new Josquin recording is soon to be released on the Arcana label, in celebration of Josquin's 500th centenary. It comes from the group, Odhecaton, who have added "The Gesualdo Six", and members of "La Reverdie" to their singing forces. So it appears that they're seriously piling on the voices. The theme of the program is to "retrace" Josquin's (or "Giosquino" to the Italians) "itinerary" during his years in Italy, performing the Missa Hercules dux Ferrariae, which was composed for the Duke of Ferrara, and various motets that Josquin composed for his Italian patrons. Apparently, the addition of extra singers to Odhecaton, which brings the ensemble to twenty-two singers is for the "more solemn" (& therefore, presumably slower) pieces: https://outhere-music.com/en/albums/Giosquino-Josquin-Desprez-in-Italia-A489.
 

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fwiw I've just conducted Josquin's motet Inviolata with my chamber choir in Portsmouth, U.K.

It was our first concert in 19 months, so it felt very special. The group's specialism is obvious from its name, The Renaissance Choir. Forced to rehearse via Zoom was as pleasant as eating lightbulbs (and only slightly less injurious to the vocal cords) but our hopeless government eventually managed to create so many holes in its anti-Covid protection measures that we succeeded in rehearsing, firstly in a barn alongside new-born calves and, eventually, in a beautifully resonant church, albeit spaced 2 metres apart (from each other, not from the cattle).

Inviolata was the only Josquin piece I managed to include because the requested repertoire demanded by the public exceeded six full-length concerts. But it was probably the best piece of the evening and we succeeded in keeping his music alive in our little corner of the globe.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to record the performance.

http://renaissancechoir.org.uk/
 

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Here's a link to another new Josquin release, scheduled for late August, 2021: https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/products/8932962--josquin-desprez-baisiez-moy. However, I don't know how I feel about their accompanying Josquin's songs on 'modern' instruments that he didn't know--such as the onde Martenot, Fender Rhodes piano, and Buchla synthesizer... Nor do I understand how exactly that's "in keeping with the spirit of the composer". But, for now, I'll keep an open mind.
 

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After a bit of a lull, a new Josquin recording is soon to be released on the Arcana label, in celebration of Josquin's 500th centenary. It comes from the group, Odhecaton, who have added "The Gesualdo Six", and members of "La Reverdie" to their singing forces. So it appears that they're seriously piling on the voices. The theme of the program is to "retrace" Josquin's (or "Giosquino" to the Italians) "itinerary" during his years in Italy, performing the Missa Hercules dux Ferrariae, which was composed for the Duke of Ferrara, and various motets that Josquin composed for his Italian patrons. Apparently, the addition of extra singers to Odhecaton, which brings the ensemble to twenty-two singers is for the "more solemn" (& therefore, presumably slower) pieces: https://outhere-music.com/en/albums/Giosquino-Josquin-Desprez-in-Italia-A489.
They appear also to be adding the brass ensemble La Pifarescha in the final movement of the Hercules Mass, so "piling on" does seem to be the right description!
 

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Here's a link to another new Josquin release, scheduled for late August, 2021: https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/products/8932962--josquin-desprez-baisiez-moy. However, I don't know how I feel about their accompanying Josquin's songs on 'modern' instruments that he didn't know--such as the onde Martenot, Fender Rhodes piano, and Buchla synthesizer... Nor do I understand how exactly that's "in keeping with the spirit of the composer". But, for now, I'll keep an open mind.
Not me. These kinds of recordings come around periodically and while they might initially sound interesting, without fail, they soon grow tiresome, IMO.
 

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That was an interesting article, thanks for pointing it out.

For others, here's a link,

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/06/21/the-musical-mysteries-of-josquin

Alex Ross also wrote a brief "listening guide" to Josquin in The New Yorker (with no actual suggestions for recordings, as far as I can tell),

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/a-listening-guide-to-josquin-desprez

P.S. By the way, I should add that The New Yorker only allows a brief free access to the article, without a subscription. So, it's best to read the article all the way through the first or second time you click on it, because after that, you won't be granted access (as I tried to go back to print it out, & couldn't do so).
I am not sure if I trust Alex Ross with this music.
 

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There have been several more Josquin releases lately,

1. Josquin Desprez: "Laments, Deplorations and Dances of Death", from Graindelavoix, led by Bjorn Schmelzer: https://www.prestomusic.com/classic...prez-laments-deplorations-and-dances-of-death

2. Josquin's Legacy: Gesualdo Six, led by Owain Park--this recording won a November, 2021 monthly plaudit from Gramophone Magazine, & judging from the listening samples, it's not difficult to understand why: https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/products/9246112--josquins-legacy

3. The following box set was released in July, 2021 (when I missed it), & contains various Josquin reissues from Harmonia Mundi: "Josquin Desprez: The Renaissance Master": https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/products/8935406--josquin-desprez-the-renaissance-master. The Peres & Visse recordings are the best of the lot, IMO. I'm curious if HM has released Peres' performance of the Missa Pange Lingua in the liturgical version (as it was released on the individual CD), or without the extra music, which is how HM has released it in the past in another box set. Has anyone bought this set, & can you tell me?

Here are my three latest Josquin purchases, which were difficult to track down (& I believe I've now collected most of this elusive import series so far; which has been a mixed success, IMO, but a welcome alternative to the Tallis Scholars' series):

1. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B084Z4PF8C/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o07_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

2. Next to the Tallis Scholars recording, this is the only other recording I know of Josquin's late Missa 'Sine Nomine', although I've not heard it yet: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08W3RP1NK/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o07_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

3. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B097CHLWTC/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o07_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

If any of these recordings have already gone out of print on Amazon US, you may still be able to locate copies at Amazon France; although they're still relatively easy to find as downloads.
 
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