Inviolata: Josquin des Prez

Marian motets by Josquin des Prez,
intabulated for solo lute or vihuela by lutenist-composers old and new
Jacob Heringman, lute & vihuela
Inventa Records, INV1004. 65’07

Inviolata, integra et casta es; Missa de Beata Virgine; Salve Regina;
Ut Phoebi radiis/Ut re mi fa sol la; Stabat Mater

Jacob Heringman follows his pioneering 2020 recording of lute intabulations by Josquin des Prez with a new album of arrangements for lute and vihuela arranged by Hans Gerle, Alonso Mudarra, Enríquez de Valderrábano, Hans Neusidler, Simon Gintzler, composers of Josquin’s time, and Herringman himself. It is a fitting contribution to the 2021 500th anniversary of Josquin’s death.

The playing is outstanding, the delicacy of Josquin’s often complex polyphony perfectly realised on two six-course lute, in E and G and a Vihuela de mano in G. In his programme notes, Herringman justifies using his own intabulations rather than just those of the early 16th-century as fitting the practice of lutenists of the day of improvising on pre-existing chord progressions and pieces and creating free-form preludes and fantasias. This, of course, was also the practice of keyboard players, and formed the basis for the development of keyboard music.

The extended opening Inviolata is based on a 12th-century chant. In his programme essay, John Potter makes the interesting point that studying intabulations can help to solve the one of the problems of creating polyphony from mode-based chant melodies: the extent to which performers should use ficta, the pitch alteration of individual notes to suit the harmonic structure, in pratice, usually occasioned by the choice between a B natural and a B flat.

John Potter also notes that “We know very little of the circumstances in which lute intabulations were played but they require a calm, small space, a refuge from the outside world where one might contemplate an inner one; the kind of place where one might listen to this album, in fact”. A timely reminder of the power of music in times of trouble for which this elegaic and reflective recording is particularly well-placed.

It was recorded in the late 19th-century Gothic Revival St Cuthbert’s seminary Chapel in Ushaw near Durham which, despite the size of the space, allows for an intimate recorded sound. The recording was an extended operation, with recording taking place over five days spanning a four year period, but there is no evidence of that in the resulting disc. More information, links to the album booklet, and purchase options can be found here.