Sixteenth century master composer Josquin Desprez wrote some of the most strikingly glorious music I've ever encountered. I first heard Josquin's masterpiece Ave Maria in 1995, and I simply had to play it! Couldn't a quartet of saxophones replace the four original voices? When I ran the idea by Northwestern University's renowned medieval and renaissance music scholar Theodore Karp, he replied, "Why not?!" Permission granted-I was off and running.
Ave Maria was received so enthusiastically by audience members as well as saxophonists that I was inspired to do more transcriptions. My colleagues in the Amherst Saxophone Quartet were particularly supportive, and voila, this CD was born. We included Harry Fackelman's transcription of Josquin's moving lament Absalon, fili mi made some years earlier, and I chose several more motets and all five movements of the Missa pange lingua to complete the program.
As Professor Karp declared, why not, indeed! The "ideal" 16th century sound was created by four or more equal voices of similar character singing in homogeneous timbre. Thus the saxophone quartet is exceptionally well-suited to perform this music. The rise in importance of instrumental music in the 16th century illustrates the desire to create musical forms complete within themselves, not relying on words to carry deeper meaning.
Josquin Desprez was born in the northern France/Belgium area in ca. 1440. The most important musical figure of his time, he summarized the complishments of the preceding generations of Dufay and Ockeghem, just as Beethoven summarized the accomplishments of the first Viennese school. Though he lived mostly during the 15th century, Josquin Desprez's life spanned the Middle Ages and the modern world, and he is identified with the polyphony of the 16th century.
The motet was the most important form of early polyphonic music, and with Josquin in the 16th century, the motet became a main vehicle of expression for composers. Each and every one of the motets featured on this recording is truly a masterwork of Renaissance counterpoint. Missa Pange lingua is a paraphrase mass based on Pange lingua, a hymn of praise to Jesus Christ. It is a late work, possibly Josquin's last mass setting, and was not published until 1539, nearly 20 years after the composer's death. His works include 18 masses, 100 motets, 70 chansons, and many other secular works. (Susan Fancher)
Ave Maria 5:11
De profundis clamavi 4:42
Absalon fili mi* 5:32
Salve Regina 3:37
0 bone et dulcissime Jesu 5:05
Domine, exaudi orationem meam 8:52
Missa Pange lingua:
- Kyrie 2:59
- Gloria 4:33
- Credo 7:02
- Sanctus 8:10
- Agnus Dei 6:52
Total time: 62:53
*transcribed by Harry Fackelman, all other transcriptions by Susan Fancher
Recorded December 1999 in King Hall, SUNY Fredonia Produced by: Susan Fancher and Bernd Gottinger Recording and Mastering Engineer: Bernd Gottinger
The stained glass window on the cover is Christ the Teacher by Willet, 1941, located in the Holmes Chapel of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Buffalo, NY. It was given in honor of N. Loring Danforth by the Danforth family.
Design: Caramax Studio and Catalpa Classics
ASQ Photographs: K.C. Kratt
©2001 Amherst Saxophone Quartet 30701