- Missa "Une musque de Biscaye"
Renaissance composers frequently based sacred works on the melodies of secular songs, which were typically placed in the tenor part as a cantus firmus. The mixing of such elements, as in Josquin's "Missa Di dadi" and the "Missa Une mousse de Biscaye," which were based respectively on the chansons "N'aray je jamais mieulx" and "Une mousse de Biscaye," was common practice in the 15th century. However, Josquin also used images of dice in the tenor part of the "Missa Di dadi," which have been interpreted as symbols representing time ratios, indicating the length of notes relative to the other three voices. This arcane notation appears to be a nod to the popularity of dice playing, which was all the rage in Milan in the 1480s, and Josquin seems to have been intrigued enough by the pastime to have used it in this work, possibly as an inside joke to amuse the ruling Sforza family, who were fond of dice. Peter Phillips and the Tallis Scholars have worked out the complexities of this unusual notation system, so listeners will find the music is smoothly sung and the method is well concealed in the transparent counterpoint. This is another in the Tallis Scholars' ongoing series of excellent recordings of Josquin's masses, and the performances are intimate, with two voices per part providing sufficient clarity and balanced ensemble textures. Gimell's recording is close-up, which helps to minimize the resonant acoustics of the Chapel of Merton College, Oxford.