5 de Diapason
The small choir Stile Antico has generally offered fine releases that distinguish themselves in several ways. The group is conductorless, which lends its work, here and elsewhere, a subtle feeling of interaction between the individual singers. Stile Antico also has shown a gift for bringing quite specialized Renaissance repertories to life and making them accessible to general audiences. The singers cultivate a tone with an edge that sets them apart from the other choirs of Oxford-Cambridge collegiate-cathedral background that might be termed their competition. The virtues are all present on The Golden Renaissance: Josquin des Prez, but there is something new here: there is nothing specialized about the repertory. For the observance of the 500th anniversary of the composer's death (admittedly a concept with only minor commercial potential), Stile Antico offers what might be called a Josquin greatest hits album, aimed squarely at general listeners. The program offers probably the single most popular Josquin mass, the Missa Pange lingua, which, with its elaboration of the rare and dark Phrygian mode, exemplifies the composer's ability to define an instantly memorable sound world. The mass is broken up with motets and other pieces in between its movements as it would have been in Josquin's day. The motets include the often-performed Marian pieces Ave Maria, Virgo Serena and Inviolata, integra, et casta es, as limpidly sung as one could wish, and there is a zippy performance of the most familiar Josquin secular piece, the frottola El grillo, in which the singers effectively shift their vocal texture for the new genre. There are also two persuasive examples of the common genre of the Josquin tribute. The album can be wholeheartedly recommended to any listener seeking a first Josquin release. There are a few pieces that don't quite belong; the group trumpets the premiere recording of the French chanson Vivrai je tousjours, but this work has never been recorded because it is not thought to be by Josquin, and, although it's interesting, it doesn't sound much like him. Nonetheless, with lovely sound, this is a fine generalist Josquin release.