*** DEBUG END ***

Music review: Gesualdo Six: ‘Josquin’s Legacy’; Brabant Ensemble: Jean Mouton

04 November 2022

Fiona Hook on another quincentennial feast


THE late Middle Ages had its day with two concerts of unaccompanied choral music at the Wigmore Hall, in London, last month. The Gesualdo Six, directed by Owain Park, presented “Josquin’s Legacy”, a programme examining the network of composers around the towering figure of Josquin des Prez, who died in 1521; and the Brabant Ensemble looked at the works and legacy of his contemporary, Jean Mouton, dead 500 years ago this year.

From the sensual, close-clustering lines of the first piece, Mouton’s “Tota pulchra es”, the Gesualdo Six’s half-dozen male voices wove an intimate aural tapestry, in which individual lines blended to form a rich, velvety whole, sometimes sacrificing clarity of diction for beauty of tone. The first half dealt with birth, and the joy of the annunciation, with Josquin’s “Praeter rerum seriem”, its rhythmic complexities skilfully negotiated, Brumel’s “Sicut lilium”, and De Févin’s “Nesciens mater”.

The second part brooded on death and loss, with plangent accounts of Josquin’s “Nymphes des bois”, and a caressing tenderness for the anonymous “Mille regretz”. Compère’s sprightlier “Venez regretz” and La Rue’s “Secretz regretz” were sung with just a touch of bounce, as if to suggest a courtlier grief with one eye on the audience. The trickier moments of Brumel’s “Tous les regretz” were beautifully handled, though the countertenor Guy James needs to watch an occasional tendency to hoot, and to dominate, especially during duet passages. They closed with Josquin’s “O virgo prudentissima”, a piece in which the chant spills from the tenor line into all parts to make a joyous declaration of simple faith.

The Brabant Ensemble was founded in 1998 by the conductor Stephen Rice to explore the neglected music of this Duchy between Belgium and the Netherlands. The 12 singers have a sharper, clearer sound than that of the Gesualdo Six, the soprano and alto lines sung by women with a pure, boylike tone, to produce a sound very much like that of a chapel choir.

In their evening concert, Mouton was represented by his Confitemini Domino, “O salutaris hostia”, and “Nesciens mater virgo virum”, and the Kyrie from Missa Faulte d’argent, a mass based on the medieval pop song “Faulte d’argent” (“Lack of money” — the cantus firmus of most people’s life at the moment). However elaborate the counterpoint, the lines were beautifully clear, and the hushed, veiled voices, and recent events, lent a particular poignancy to Festa’s “Quis dabit oculis nostris”, a lament for the French Queen. Josquin was there, too, with an “Alma redemptoris mater/Ave regina caelorum” whose two texts, sung simultaneously, were so skilfully managed that they never clashed.

A last word of praise must go to the ensemble’s diction. Even during their encore, Clemens non Papa’s “Ego flos campi”, for which we didn’t have the text, every word was audible.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events


Church Times/RSCM: 

Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE


Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available


Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available


Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Church Times/Canterbury Press:

Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

Early bird tickets available



The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)