See, See, the Word is incarnate
Choral & Instrumental music by Gibbons, Tomkins & Weelkes
The Chapel Choir of Trinity Hall, Cambridge,
Newe Vialles, Orpheus Britannicus Vocal Consort, Andrew Arthur
Resonus Classics RES10295. 70’51
The Chapel Choir of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, under the College’s Director of Music, Andrew Arthur, follow their previous recording of Buxtehude (reviewed here) with this exploration of some of the best-known music from the early decades of the 17th-century. This was the period when James I was on the throne of the two kingdoms of Scotland and England. Gibbons and Weelkes were both dead by the end of his reign (in 1625), but Tomkins (the first-born of the three) lived on until 1656 to witness, at considerable personal loss, the collapse of the Stuart dynasty and the Commonwealth.
Mon Dieu me paist
Psalms by Claude Le Jeune
The Choir of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, Edward Wickham
Resonus RES10206. 58’26
This fascinating recording from the mixed-voice choir of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge under their director Edward Wickham looks at a little-known part of the late Renaissance vocal repertoire – settings of Psalms from the Genevan Psalter during the Calvinist Reformation in France composed by the Franco-Flemish composer Claude Le Jeune (c1530-1600). Le Jeune’s Psalm collection, Dodecacorde, was published in 1598. Four of the twelve multi-verse settings are performed here, each preceded by a simple harmonised setting from the Calvin Psalter. Continue reading
O Gemma Clarissima
Music in Praise of St Catharine
The Choirs of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, Edward Wickham
Resonus Classics RES10246. 72’02
Quite by chance, I realize that I am reviewing this recording on the Feast of St Catherine, 25 November. The patron saint of wheelwrights, millers, students, and young unmarried girls, the Cambridge college that now bears her name (which they spell ‘Catharine’) was founded in 1473 as ‘Katherine Hall’. The famous torture wheel that she is usually depicted with was, apparently, destroyed by an angel before it touched her, killing many. After her beheading, more angels whisked her remains off to the Mount Sinai monastery, which became and remains a centre of devotion. A monastery in Rouen also became a pilgrimage site after a monk brought back a finger that “broke off” when he prayed for a relic.
Buxtehude: Membra Jesu Nostri
The Chapel Choir of Trinity Hall, Cambridge
Orpheus Britannicus, Newe Vialles, Andrew Arthur (director)
Resonus Classics RES10238. 70’17
Buxtehude’s cycle of seven cantatas, under the collective title of Membra Jesu nostri patientis sanctissima, is one of the finest sacred vocal works of the 17th-century. It reflects on The holy limbs of our suffering Jesus, using texts from the Medieval hymn Salve mundi salutare, probably written by Arnulf of Leuven (d1250). Each cantata focusses on a specific part of Christ’s crucified body: feet, knees, hands, sides, breast, heart, and face, adding to the hymn text words from the Bible. It is composed for five solo singers, who usually also make up a chorus although, in this case, the chorus is the 24-strong Chapel Choir of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, conducted by Andrew Arthur, the Director of Music at Trinty Hall. They are accompanied by the College’s professional period ensemble Ensemble-in-Residence, Orpheus Britannicus (founded by Andrew Arthur), with the five viols of Newe Vialles (directed by Henrik Persson and Caroline Ritchie) playing for the sensuous sixth cantata, Ad cor (To The Heart). Continue reading
The Clare Reformation 500 Project
Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, Clare Baroque, Graham Ross
St John’s, Smith Square. 30 March 2017
Bach Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild; Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott
Brahms Warum ist das Licht gegeben den Mühseligen?
Mendelssohn Wer nur den lieben Gott laßt walten
Vaughan Williams Lord, thou hast been our refuge
As part of their Clare Reformation 500 Project, the choir and associated period instrument orchestra of Clare College, Cambridge, gave a concert of music inspired by the musical legacy of Martin Luther’s 1517 Reformation. It was the culmination of the Lent Term series of Sunday services in the College chapel, each featuring a liturgical performance of a Bach cantata, using a variety of instrumental groups to accompany them. On this occasion they used Clare Baroque which, despite its name, was not a student orchestra but was made up of many of the ‘usual suspects’ from London’s early music performers, led by the ex-Clare violinist (and Director of Performance in the University Faculty of Music) Margaret Faultless. Continue reading
J S Bach: Organ Works Vol III
Coro COR16132. 61’31
This timely (but subtle) release for the season includes three choral preludes on the Advent choral Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, the Italianate Pastorella and the Canonic Variations on the Christmas choral, Vom Himmel hoch, together with the Prelude and Fugue in C (BWV 547) which some commentators have associated with Christmas performance. These works are enclosed within the well-known Fantasia and Fugue in G minor (BWV 542) and the final exhilarating Prelude and Fugue in G (BWV 541).
Robert Quinney plays the 1976 Metzler organ in Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge, built in the case of the 1694/1708 ‘Father’ Bernard Smith organ, and retaining several Smith pipes in the Hauptwerk chorus. Although not up to the ‘authenticity’ Continue reading
Included within the year-long Kings Place ‘Minimalism Unwrapped’ festival, Stephen Cleobury and the Choir of King’s College Cambridge devised a programme based around plainchant (4 Feb). They combined this with their own celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the completion of their Chapel and reflections on the College’s (and their sister foundation of Eton College) founder Henry VI and their patron, the Virgin Mary. The result was a complete Sarum Rite plainsong Vespers In Nativitate Beatae Maria Virginis (including Dunstable’s Ave Maria Stella and Magnificat secundi toni) and a recreated Mass sequence De Beatae Maria Virginis, incorporating music from the Old Hall Manuscript by Damett, Bittering, Power and ‘Roy Henry’. Each half ended with a piece from the Eton Choir Book. The Vespers was enclosed within Robert Parsons’ Ave Maria and the Old Hall Salve Regina by Robert Hacomplaynt, the interestingly surnamed Provost of Kings from 1509-28. The more elaborate flowing melismas of the Vesper antiphons provided contrast to the simpler melodic lines of the Psalms. Despite any possible arguments of authenticity, I do find the habit of over-lengthening the silence in the middle of a chant verse, and then almost overlapping the end of one verse with the start of the next, rather curious. The 16 choral scholars (nearly all undergraduates, judging by their academic gowns) were joined by 17 boy choristers for the large-scale pieces that opened and closed each half. Although it was a slightly curious notion to include music of this period in a festival of minimalism – and, of course, it would have sounded very different if the King’s College Choir had been singing on home turf – this was a fascinating and musically compelling insight into musical and liturgical history. It was also a fine example of the outstanding music making that goes on day by day in our cathedrals and college foundations.