Choral Music of Renaissance Master Jean Mouton

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While it might seem reasonable that we should not expect too many surprises to come out of the 15th century, the extraordinarily beautiful and imaginative music of Jean Mouton (before 1459 – 1522) may well be one that is left for you, as it was for me.

In essence, Mouton’s music is similar to that of other composers of his time: Ockeghem and Josquin des Prez for example. Polyphonic voices are of generally equal importance, canonical and imitative. Yet Mouton’s music remains exceptional not only relative to that of these two masters, but perhaps to the entire scope of Renaissance music. What Mouton achieves to a greater extent than any of his contemporaries is a sense of peace and tranquility that is a wonder to hear over the course of this 68 minute program. Short and lucid melodic lines in crystal clear textures allow every vocal thread to be easily discerned. Listening to this, you get the plain impression that Mouton is concerned not only with the horizontal effect of his music, but also with the vertical. It was not possible for me to listen without getting the impression that harmonic considerations were as important as contrapuntal ones in the crafting of this music. In his excellent notes, it’s fascinating to read The Tallis Scholars’ director Peter Philips explain how mathematically perfect Mouton’s music is, in addition to the unparalleled expressive atmosphere he creates.

We know that Peter Phillips and The Tallis Scholars are supreme in this repertoire. Here, they are well beyond technically polished and expressively fluent, achieving the realm the composer surely imagined. Mouton’s tranquil and gorgeous music will be a wonderful discovery for anyone who appreciates the music of this time and space. Listen to a sample of the last work on this CD, the Nesicens Mater. It is a live recording and it is not performed by the Tallis Scholars, but it will give you a sense of Mouton’s art.

Listen to a sample of the last work on this CD, the Nesicens Mater. It is a live recording and it is not performed by the Tallis Scholars, but it will give you a sense of Mouton's art.