Josquin 14 secular chansons
Pro Musica Antiqua, dir. Safford Cape
EMS 213 (rec. autumn 1950, Brussels)
On Thursday 26th April, I finished the penultimate chapter of my PhD thesis, which is the main thing that’s been keeping me from posting more coprolites from the Cave. Chapter 8 is three times longer than it should be and has taken me months to write, rather than the mere weeks I’d projected. Oh well, I’ve learned a lot in the process. Now I just need to re-read it plus the preceding seven, all 320 pages, before I tackle what I’ve been dreading – the final chapter, with my supposed ‘conclusions’. My main conclusion is, I don’t know what to conclude!
As a tiny celebration (and distraction), here is one of the too many LPs I’ve bought recently. In fact, I already had two copies of this lovely disc but they looked too beaten up to dub – it’s hard to tell, as they’re pressed on red vinyl, which is pretty but doesn’t show scratches or dirt. I’m trying to collect as many records of this great group as I can. I’ve just bought a couple more good uns, so we could be in for a Cape bonanza.
This record is remarkable in several ways. First, remember that in 1950 devoting an entire LP to one prehistoric composer was seriously avant-garde. Second, the sleeve carries detailed information on the music and performances, texts and translations, although not, oddly, the group’s line-up (singers of solo items are credited). Third, and most important, these are really fine performances, which present the wonderful music simply, seriously, and with complete conviction. The famous and glorious Deploration on the death of Ockeghem is here - I’ve never enjoyed it as much. Also deeply moving are Malheur me bat (which spawned several parody masses) and Incessamment mon povre cueur lamente, the latter sung with noble dolour by the great Jeanne Deroubaix. I really like the instrumentals, too – the close miking brings the gently raspy, gutty, hairy sounds into sharp focus and creates an atmosphere of intimacy and concentration – no hey-nonny-nonsense here.
The recording struggles a bit with some of the vocal numbers, though that could also be wear on my copy. Or my arm, which I never rebalance, as I should. Still, it’s come up pretty well. I see that in 1961 Archiv issued an LP devoted to Josquin, with a mass and some of the same chansons, performed by Pro Musica – but they must be re-recordings, as it was also issued in stereo (APM 14171, SAPM 198171) and I don’t believe Archiv went in for fake stereo (does anyone have it or know?). By the way, I’ve not checked if modern musicology still thinks all this is by Josquin.
Download the 14, fully tagged mono FLAC files, plus my not very good but legible scan of the back of the sleeve (my stupid A3 scanner has a chamfered border round the platen which just prevents LP covers from lying flat!), in a .rar file, here.
Tomorrow, Sunday 29th April, Jolyon and I are off to sell some 78s and LPs at the Croydon Record Fair – and probably buy far too many as well! See you there?
ADDENDUM: Listening again, I’ve remembered that the levels as originally mastered are a bit all over the place: the first item, an instrumental, is too high compared to the vocal number which follows; several vocals sound a bit low. But I haven’t altered any levels. Also, if it had been up to me I would have ended the disc with the Deploration rather than Basiez-moi. But there you go, I’m sure Ockeghem would have agreed that life must go on, eh?
CORRIGENDUMDIDUMDIDUM: Doltishly, I included earlier versions of two files in the .rar; these both have ‘OLD’ in the file-name. The only difference from the newer versions is that I hadn’t faded out the residual surface noise at the end of one, which closes side 1, or faded it in at the start of the next, which opens side 2 with rather more noise. Sic errat Grumpius.