The Brabant Ensemble’s recordings have tended to focus on less familiar Franco-Flemish composers associated with the duchy of Brabant, but here they turn to the celebrated ‘fons et origo’ of Renaissance polyphony, Josquin des Prez. The selection of works chosen to mark the 500th anniversary of the composer’s death does, however, unveil some rarities: we hear the Corpus Christi motet Homo quidam fecit coenam magnam in a version not previously recorded; a lush setting of the Stabat Mater fleshed out in the late 16th century, long after Josquin’s death; and a mellifluous version of the motet O bone et dulcissime Jesu, again with additional voices enriching the stark original. The disc also includes several works of uncertain authenticity, including Usquequo, Domine, whose dolorous text unfolds at an aptly measured tread here, and the poignant psalm setting Domine, ne in furore tuo, its penitential words uttered with a sense of quiet resignation.
The ensemble’s sound is clean and ingenuous throughout: boyish sopranos and altos are balanced by fresh-voiced tenors and basses, intonation is nigh flawless, the recording limpid. Stephen Rice and his singers subtly capture the emotional and spiritual gamut of these works—from the joyful serenity of the Annunciation sequence Mittit ad virginem to the dark anguish of Huc me sydereo—Maffeo Vegio’s poetic meditation on the Passion of Christ, which the ensemble delivers with haunting intensity. Rice’s detailed liner notes, which include a summary of the scholarly debates surrounding the spurious works, wrap up this treasurable anniversary disc.