Was Josquin des Prés’ (c.1440-1521) Missa Di Dadi (The Dice Mass) the first example of aleatoric music? Certainly several movements of his Mass setting have the tenor parts prefaced with a pair of dice.
Peter Phillips www.thetallisscholars.co.uk/peter-phillips discusses the possible meanings of the dice as well as the attribution of these two settings in his interesting booklet notes for The Tallis Scholars’ www.thetallisscholars.co.uk new disc for Gimell www.gimell.com that couples the Missa Di Dadi with his Missa Une Mousse De Biscaye.
The Kyrie and opening section of the Gloria from the Missa Di Dadi can be seen on YouTube via the following link. https://youtu.be/41Y2mx_3sqM
In the Kyrie of the Missa Di dadi, based on a chanson by Robert Morton ‘N’ray je jamais mieux’, the Tallis Scholars move from a gentle opening through richer textures as the Kyrie I develops, creating some wonderful sonorities before a Christe where female voices weave around the male voices in some beautifully controlled singing. They find a slightly faster tempo in the Kyrie II to move quickly to the conclusion.
From the solo plainchant statement of the Gloria in excelsis Deo the Tallis Scholars weave some quite lovely textures, with individual voices adding fine moments, through a finely shaped Domine Deus, Rex caelestis, a subtly nuanced Domine Fili unigenite and a gently flowing Domine Deus, Agnus Dei with the most perfect harmonies before arriving at a slower, more contemplative, finely woven Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere with varying rhythms toward the end.
They find a lovely pace in the Credo in unum Deum as voices join to develop the most wonderful harmonies, always with richly drawn textures, this choir negotiating Josquin’s twists and turns beautifully. There is a wonderfully developed Crucifixus where there are some very fine individual contributions, again finding terrific textures and building some wonderful passages.
This fine choir brings a lovely flow to the Sanctus providing a richness to Pleni sunt caeli and a fine strength and momentum to Hosanna I with the most wonderful weaving voices. There is the most lovely weaving of textures from the male voices in the Benedictus before finding a light textured Hosanna II.
There is a melancholy, flowing Agnus Dei I where this choir find the loveliest of harmonies, quite glorious. There is an Agnus Dei II that brings a real sound of antiquity in the wonderful vocal sounds before we are taken into an equally exquisite Agnus Dei III where the choir blend the finest harmonies and textures.
The Missa Une mousse de Biscaye, is based on a secular tune The Lass from Biscay. There is a lovely restraint to the opening of Kyrie I before it gently expands through a Christe that weaves around beautifully, proving fine textures and later rising in richness before a Kyrie II that brings glowing harmonies.
This choir rises through some wonderfully woven vocal lines in the Gloria in excelsis Deo through a brief though beautifully blended Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere before rising in the Qui sedes ad dexterem Patris to flow with glorious harmonies to the final Amen.
This choir finds just the right tempo in the Credo in unum Deum, slowly moving the music forward as it develops in richness of textures, finding a slower breadth in the Et iterum venturus est before moving ahead through some very fine weaving of voices.
There is a gentle opening to the Sanctus with the choir soon moving through a constantly shifting Pleni sunt caeli to a Hosanna I that moves quickly forward with this choir showing tremendous flexibility and fluency in the ever changing intervals. The Benedictus re-discovers the gentler flowing quality before a Hosanna II that moves more quickly with a fine blend of voices.
The choir rises in the Agnus Dei I, slowly blending some lovely textures and sonorities through a finely shaped Agnus Dei II to a glowing Agnus Dei III.
After 43 years Peter Phillips and the Tallis Scholars remain at the top of their game. They bring such lovely control, pacing, harmonies and textures. There is an especially fine recording from the chapel of Merton College, Oxford together with excellent notes from Peter Phillips as well as full Latin texts and English translations.
This is a very fine addition to the Tallis Scholars’ remarkable catalogue