Performing Josquin in 2021: A New Approach

Jesse Rodin
Stanford University. Department of Music


For the past several decades, performances of Josquin’s vocal music have fa- voured an approach developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1980s by groups such as the Hilliard Ensemble and the Tallis Scholars. This approach has much to recommend it: good tuning, rhythmic accuracy, and vibrato-free singing that makes it possible to hear the individual lines – all features that helped spark an appreciation of Josquin by a generation of enthusiasts and scholars, this writer included. By now most of the securely attributed works are available in high-quality recordings that adopt this general performance style.
Still, with every approach come benefits and costs – and significant draw- backs can be associated with a sound that emerged out of the bel canto and Anglican choral traditions and through experience with much later six- teenth-century repertories. On reflection, it seems likely that however attrac- tive, the sound for Renaissance polyphony made popular some four decades ago and still in vogue today would have been unfamiliar to listeners in the years around 1500.
This contribution introduces ideas about rhythm, tempo, and timbre that I and Cut Circle have been developing over the past several years through work together and with the original sources. Applying a fresh set of ideas about performance practice can perhaps get us a bit closer to a sound for Josquin’s music that he and his contemporaries would have recognized and appreciated. 

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