During his stay in Rome, Josquin’s work was particularly concentrated on the composition of polyphonic masses. All five masses that Petrucci published in his first book of masses date from this period, and among them the Gaudeamus and the Homme armé Super Voces musicales stand out for their extraordinary quality.
The latter, which is presented here, is a masterpiece of construction and expressiveness. In addition to a particularly emotionally powerful Kyrie and Sanctus, it is in the Agnus Dei that the entire composition is sublimated: while the Cantus performs the Homme armé theme on an extremely low tessitura, the three voices of Altus, Tenor and Bassus sing the text in a narrow, almost minimalist canon, which acts as an amplifier of the urgency of the words, in an atmosphere of human impellence that had never before had a voice in music. It is a true discovery of Man, dramatically placed at the centre of the conversation with the Divine.
The year that the musician spent in Ferrara was one of the most prolific and important of his career, since in that short period he composed masterpieces such as the masses Hercules dux Ferrariae and Ave maris stella, motets such as Virgo salutiferi, probably Inviolata integra et casta and the monumental Miserere mei Deus. The sense of bewilderment and emptiness that pervades the entire work, the lucid psychological depth, the touching sense of humanity, the essential and truly extraordinary concentration of the musical material, make the Miserere one of the most intense prayers in music ever written.
Completely different is the air one breathes in the Inviolata, integra et casta. Also written, according to some scholars, during his stay in Ferrara, the motet exudes light, clarity of intent, harmonic sweetness and a confident abandonment in every passage, making it one of the most beautiful and significant Marian motets in the entire history of music.
L’arte di Josquin Desprez
Church of Santa Caterina da Siena, Naples
20 March 2021
Nadia Caristi, Laura Fabris, Arianna Miceli cantus
Massimo Altieri, Andrés Montilla-Acurero altus
Riccardo Pisani, Giacomo Schiavo tenor
Guglielmo Buonsanti, Gabriele Lombardi bassus
with the participation of the tenors of the Ensemble InCanto di Partenope
a video-production Caméra Musique
Directed by Duilio Meucci