In honour of the Virgin
The Cardinall’s Musick
St John’s, Smith Square. 14 December 2016
The 31st St John’s, Smith Square Christmas Festival features most of the usual suspects, including regulars, The Cardinall’s Musick. As is typical of their concerts, the focus was on Catholic liturgical music from the Renaissance, on this occasion in honour of the Virgin Mary. In a ‘greatest hits’ line-up of Renaissance composers, the first half was built around Lassus’s Missa Osculeter me osculo oris sui alternating with motets by Victoria; the second centered on Byrd’s Propers for the Nativity of the Virgin Mary and concluded with Palestrina’s Magnificat primi toni a 8.
I have never quite understood how the Song of Songs managed to get accepted into the Bible. However much commentators from the Jewish or Christian tradition attempt to find allegorical links in the Song of Solomon, in the latter case, with the New Testament stories, it remains so obviously an evocation of sexual love of a most explicit kind: the closest that Solomon could get to internet porn. Continue reading
The Cardinall’s Musick, Andrew Carwood
Hyperion CDA68121. 75’09
Lamentations of Jeremiah I/II; In pace, in idipsum; Lord have mercy upon us: Short Service ‘Dorian’ (Responses, Credo, Sanctus, Gloria); Not every one that saith unto me; Solemnis urgebat dies; Sancte Deus; Dum transisset Sabbatum; Why brag’st in malice high; Salvator mundi I; Te deum ‘for meanes’; Come, Holy Ghost.
This is the penultimate recording in The Cardinal’s Musick’s Tallis Edition, and it opens with a masterpiece, the two settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah. As Andrew Carwood explains in his programme notes, it seems that they were written during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, rather than the earlier Catholic Queen Mary. It is not clear why these, and other similar Lamentations, were composed or when they would have been performed, if not in the Holy Week Tenebrae service in the Catholic rite – hence the usual assumption of composition during Queen Mary’s reign. They are remarkable pieces, using the simple textural style of one note per syllable encouraged by Archbishop Cranmer. The Hebrew incipits are particularly well set, as are the concluding, and rather sombre Continue reading
The Psalms of David are a key part of the liturgy of Christian and Jewish worship, and were rather nicely described by the (un-named) programme note writer of The Cardinall’s Musick concert (Cadogan Hall, 5 Feb) as a “collection of praises and complaints, benedictions and moans … dealing with the problems of ordinary life”. Their programme looked at two of the many possible musical genres, comparing the European Catholic tradition of the 16th century with that of the English church of the same period, described by director Andrew Carwood as a collection of “sorbets and grand dishes”.
The 10 singers were used in many different formations, only coming together at the end of each half, firstly for the Allegri Miserere and then Byrd’s joyful Laudibus in sanctis. After the opening Jubilate Deo by Giovanni Gabrieli, the first half was built around three of Victoria’s large-scale double-choir Vespers Psalm settings, Nisi Dominus, Dixit Dominus and Laudate Dominum. These were contrasted with more intimate settings, notably Palestrina’s Super flumina Babylonis, with its closely-wrought stepwise musical lines, and the Ad Dominum cum tribularer by Lassus with its contrast between high and low voices. The often intense English settings were intended for a very different liturgical purpose, usually as anthems during Evensong or Mattins, or for more private devotions. Only with the opening Gibbons’ ‘O clap your hands together’ and the final Byrd Laudibus in sanctis did the English music approach the grandeur of Victoria’s settings. Indeed, it was the intimate and madrigal-like ‘O Lord in thy wrath’ and Laboravi in gemitu meo (by Gibbons and Weelkes respectively) that were the emotional highlights for me.
The rather youthful photographs of Andrew Carwood and Cardinall’s Musick belied the fact that they are in their 25th year. They were on excellent form on this occasion, their forthright vocal style ideal for the large-scale works as well as seeking out the emotional intensity of the more intimate works.