is a disc of arrangements: sixteenth-century arrangements for
lute (and its Spanish counterpart, the vihuela) of vocal music
by the greatest of renaissance composers, Josquin Desprez. The
arrangements, from Italy, Spain, Germany and France, are by the
leading lutenists of the early and mid sixteenth century; the
earliest is by Spinacino (1507) from the first surviving published
book of lute music; the latest is by the Transylvanian virtuoso
Valentine Bakfark, from the Cracow Lute Book of 1565 (which also
includes Bakfark's setting of the splendid four-part motet Qui
habitat in adjutorio -- see my previous DGM CD, Black Cow).
is the official name for an instrumental arrangement
of a vocal piece. The sixteenth-century solo lute and vihuela
repertoire can be divided into three categories:
fantasias and other freely composed pieces
3) intabulations of vocal originals
A cursory survey of sixteenth-century lute music, both in manuscripts
and in printed books, shows that intabulations form the largest
category. And yet this category is largely unrepresented in performance
and in recordings today.
Over a period of several years, with the help of leading scholars
of lute music, I have assembled and played through as complete
a list as possible of the hundreds of surviving sixteenth-century
lute settings of Josquin Desprez's vocal music. After a long process
of studying the intabulations and the vocal originals, I compiled
this programme of some of the finest settings, and, during 1999,
I toured with the programme, giving concerts in London, Turin,
Vancouver and Norwich.
is not only the first CD/concert programme ever to be devoted
entirely to intabulations, it is also the first lute project ever
devoted entirely to the great Josquin Desprez and to the legacy
of Josquin instrumental arrangements, and much of the music has
not been recorded or performed in modern times.
have we avoided intabulations until now? They are, after all,
the meat and potatoes of the sixteenth-century lutenist's activity.
Probably it is because: 1) they are difficult technically; 2)
they have, in our culture of originality, perhaps
been thought of as somehow derivative (not unlike piano reductions
of orchestral scores in the nineteenth century); and 3) the vocal
originals are less well-known among lutenists and audiences today,
which removes the music from its original context.
believe that none of these reasons is particularly convincing:
the technical difficulty has not proven an obstacle; it's simply
a matter of giving the music one's time and commitment. The musical
rewards are rich. Regarding the derivative quality of intabulations
and the fact that, generally, people are unfamiliar with the vocal
originals, I am convinced (and audiences have confirmed) that
the best Josquin lute settings are fine instrumental pieces in
their own right. I like to think of these pieces as transformations
of vocal music rather than as reductions. Of course a knowledge
of the vocal originals greatly enhances one's appreciation of
these lute pieces, but Josquin's music is of such high quality,
and the best settings so skilful, that his genius shines through
them. Quite simply, this is great music which needs no apology.
2000, Jacob Heringman
des Prez and intabulations
it feels as though Josquin will disappear in a whiff of smoke.
Since Helmuth Osthoff's great biography of the composer (1962-5)
it has become clear that a very large part of his details actually
concerned other musicians -- Josquin de Kessalia at the court
of Milan (d.1498), Josquin Steelant at the court of Burgundy,
Josquin Doro at the court of Ferrara, Johannes Stokem (called
Jo. de Pratis) at the Papal chapel, and so on. Fortunately some
new documents have also been found, but our picture of his life
is a lot more tentative than it once looked.
The present view is like this. He was born around the present
French-Belgian border, probably in the mid-1450s, some 15 years
later than once thought. His early career was not in Milan but
probably at the chapel of 'Good' King René of Anjou (d.1480)
at Aix-en-Provence and then in the Sainte-Chapelle of King Louis
XI of France. After Louis died in 1483 Josquin seems to have been
in Milan for a few years before joining the Papal chapel in 1489
(three years later than once thought). In 1496 he again disappears
from trace, possibly returning to France; but he was certainly
at the court of Ferrara for the year 1503-4, after which he moved
north to Condé, where he was provost of the collegiate
church until his death in 1521. What is abundantly clear, however,
is that from the time when Ottaviano de' Petrucci published his
first book of Josquin masses in 1502 Josquin stood as incomparably
the most famous composer of the day.
An even more serious disappearing act has happened with his music.
Josquin's fame in the 16th century seems to have led copyists
and particularly printers to add his name to pieces of all kinds.
Just over 300 works exist with his name on them in some 1000 early
sources. The complete Josquin edition of Albert Smijers (finished
in 1969) printed only two-thirds of these: some were unknown at
the time, but in most cases their omission from the Smijers edition
was already a judgment that they could not be authentic. Jeremy
Noble's worklist for The New Grove Dictionary (1980) gave only
176 as being probably by Josquin. Since then the number of accepted
works has continued to fall. Every few months there is another
article arguing that a particular work is not really by him.
today many Josquin scholars prefer to take a different tack, beginning
from the other end. They look for works that present an overwhelming
documentary case for being indeed by Josquin des Prez. Often that
case includes ascriptions in several sources of independent authority,
survival in sources from Josquin's lifetime or from editors who
could be expected to have good information (Senfl and Glareanus,
for example), and perhaps a passing reference by some writer or
theorist. That approach obviously raises questions: it excludes
the broader picture of what Josquin meant to hundreds of musicians
in the later 16th century; and it seriously risks losing dimensions
of Josquin's creativity that may just happen to be less well supported
by documentary evidence. But it yields a small body of music that
is of a stunningly high quality: 12 masses, some 40 motets and
around a dozen songs.
it turns out that this fairly small repertory, the hard-core Josquin,
is the music that made by far the greatest impact in the 16th
century. These are the works that appear in the largest number
of sources (a whiff of circular argument here, but let it pass);
by and large, they are the pieces that formed the basis of parody
works down to the time of Lassus and Palestrina; and they are
also the ones overwhelmingly preferred by the musicians who arranged
his music for lute or vihuela.
Among them, on this disc, are the three great six-voice motets
Praeter rerum seriem, Benedicta es and Pater noster. All had a
huge impact on later composers. Pater noster may be one of his
last and most serene works; Josquin chose it to be sung annually
in his memory at Condé. The other two may date from around
1500, and stand at the very root of the six-voice motet tradition
in the 16th century. Despite the difficulties of reducing six
voices to lute tablature, there are no fewer than 24 tablature
sources for Benedicta es and 15 for Pater noster.
with the masses. The mass Pange lingua -- the only Josquin mass
that was not printed by Petrucci, and therefore possibly his last
surviving mass -- was excerpted and recopied throughout the century.
And in many ways the mass La sol fa re mi, perhaps from the mid-1490s,
is the most perfect of all his works. Although the vihuelist Diego
Pisador famously intabulated eight entire masses of Josquin in
1552, the general pattern was to select shorter sections, which
is what we find in the Spanish printed tablatures of Mudarra and
Fuenllana as well as in the Venetian manuscript of Capirola (one
of the earliest sources for any music of the Pange lingua mass).
the solidly documented songs, Adieu mes amours must
be one of the earliest, composed before 1480; and it was also
to be one of his most successful -- known from nine tablature
sources, alongside 16 staff-notation sources. And the latest may
well be Mille regretz, with a similar spread of sources:
this work has in fact been informally doubted by some, partly
because only one (much later) source supports the ascription to
Josquin in Narváez's tablature; but I have recently convinced
myself that a closer examination of the evidence not only shows
it to be by Josquin but also suggests that it is one of his very
last works, perhaps from 1520.
five-voice chanson Faulte d'argent (perhaps from soon
after 1500) has been questioned on stylistic grounds; but the
documentary case for its being by Josquin seems hard to shake,
and with the shifting picture of Josquin's output it seems wise
for the moment to resist stylistic judgments. The six-voice Nimphes,
nappés -- a work widely distributed with the Latin
text Circumdederunt me (following the borrowed chant
presented in canon within the texture) -- is also among his most
solidly ascribed works: it surely dates from his last years in
peut avoir joye (4vv) and En l'ombre d'ung buysonnet
(3vv) remain hard to place within Josquin's output, though again
they are among the most securely ascribed of his songs. As an
intriguing teaser, this recording also includes the anonymous
three-voice Scaramella setting that seems to be the
basis of the more famous settings by Josquin and Compere as well
as the mass by Obrecht. The anonymous piece is known from four
sources (all tablatures), which is more than any of the other
the rest, though, these later arrangements for plucked instruments
give an astonishingly direct report of Josquin's most influential
and loved works. In many cases one is hearing them through the
medium of another musician's creativity, hearing them as they
were heard in the generations after the composer's death, when
he stood as the unassailable model for fine and refined music.
But paradoxically it is through the eyes and ears of these later
musicians that we can begin reassembling a plausible picture of
Josquin des Prez.
David Fallows January 2000