Josquin Desprez: De Profundis; Motets / Cordes, Weser Renaissance

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JOSQUIN DES PREZ De profundis. In exitu Israel. Domine ne in furore tuo. Miserere mei. Memor esto verbi tui. Qui habitat in adjutorio. Misericordias Domini Manfred Cordes, dir; Wester-Renaissance Bremen CPO 777 588-2 (70:26 Text and Translation)

This is a good selection of motets because it hardly duplicates the last two such discs. On Orlando Consort’s collection of Josquin’s motets ( Fanfare 34:1), only De profundis is heard, and none of them are on David Skinner’s more varied disc (33:1). It follows another Josquin disc by Cordes (35:6), though it was recorded a year later, a fine offering that unfortunately had to compete with an excellent recording of a Mass in Peter Phillips’s ongoing series. The unusual aspect of this program is its concentration on psalm settings, Psalms 129, 113, 37, 50, 118, and 90, respectively; the final piece is a compilation of texts mostly from six other psalms. The predominant sentiment that runs through these texts is repentance, most notably in the Miserere mei , one of the composer’s greatest works and the most familiar of these on disc. Standing apart from the rest is In exitu Israel , a psalm that simply narrates the passage of the Israelites out of Egypt and celebrates the glory of the one true God, mocking the idols who “have mouths, but speak not.” This psalm concludes Vespers every Sunday. Another familiar psalm is Qui habitat in adjutorio , which is sung every night at Compline, the concluding Office of the day, expressing not so much repentance as trust in God’s mercy.

The two psalms just cited seem to be first recordings, and the remaining four are poorly represented on disc ( Memor esto verbi tui is on Jeremy Summerly’s Ockeghem disc, 22:1), so this collection is not only well focused but also desirable, for Cordes shows a fine grasp of the style, and the voices are warm and well blended. It may be noted that De profundis is on Andrew Kirkman’s interesting collection (25:4) with attributions to Champion as well as Josquin, but the authenticity of the Josquin attribution, like all of these pieces, is validated by Helmuth Osthoff, Jeremy Noble, and both old and new editions of the complete works. The performances by Cordes’s ensemble of eight singers are uniformly fine. Again Franz Vitzthum is a distinguished member of the group, but all the voices blend effectively. Let us have more like this, for there has never been a systematic survey of Josquin’s motets on disc.

FANFARE: J. F. Weber

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 777588-2

  • UPC: 761203758821

  • Label: CPO

  • Composer: Josquin Des Préz

  • Conductor: Manfred Cordes

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Weser Renaissance