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GRAMOPHONE (02/2022)
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Reviewer: David Fallows

This is decidedly the oddest contribution to the Josquin year. The three performers here are beyond praise: María Cristina Kiehr has of course been a major figure in Baroque music for over 30 years; the other two are younger but both immaculate musicians. But they have taken major works of Josquin, mainly in five and six voices, and rearranged them for two voices and vihuela. As John Griffiths’s lucid and original booklet note reminds us, comparable things do happen in the 16th-century sources, particularly in the Spanish vihuela prints; and evidently this kind of thing happened in Spanish households. The only trouble is that it takes you so far from anything Josquin can possibly have intended that the already complicated music is often reduced to incomprehensibility.

Kiehr lays down the opening challenge with the world’s slowest performance of the six-voice Nymphes, nappés. How she manages to keep such amazing control at this tempo I cannot imagine. The question that kept going through my mind was how the music benefited from such treatment.

‘The Josquin Songbook’ is also a challenging title. There are only two Josquin songs here – or three if you include Narváez’s arrangement of Mille regretz for solo vihuela. There are several Mass fragments (two by other composers, though based on material by Josquin): this too has its authority in many manuscripts as well as, once again, vihuela prints. It just makes for a curiously dotty programme. On the positive side – once again, on top of the flawless performances – they do include some of Josquin’s very finest mature motets, works that nobody can ever tire of hearing, even in these bizarre arrangements.

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