Monteverdi: The Other Vespers
I Fagiolini, The English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble, The 24, Robert Hollingworth
Decca 4831654. 80’23
During this 450th Monteverdi anniversary year there will be many performances and recordings of the 1610 Vespers. But for this ‘not the 1610’ recording, I Fagiolini have reconstructed a Vespers service inspired by a Dutch tourist’s 1620 record of hearing Monteverdi direct a Vespers on the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist. The psalms and the plainchant on this recording are from that feast, using music by Monteverdi and his contemporaries. The Monteverdi contribution comes from his Selva morale e spirituale, published in 1641, but containing music written much earlier. Whereas the 1610 Vespers are intended for feasts of the Virgin or other female saints, the 1641 collection contains psalms for feasts of male saints. Continue reading
‘Baroque at the Edge: pushing the boundaries’
London Festival of Baroque Music
St John’s, Smith Square & Westminster Abbey
12-20 May 2017
After reforming, renaming, and regrowing itself from the long-running Lufthansa Festival, the London Festival of Baroque Music has become, phoenix-like, one of the most important early music festivals in London. Under the banner of ‘Baroque at the Edge: pushing the boundaries‘, this year’s LFBM used the music of Monteverdi and Telemann, from either end of the Baroque (and both with anniversaries this year) to explore ‘some of the chronological, geographical and stylistic peripheries of Baroque Music’. With one exception, all the concerts were held in the Baroque splendour of St John’s, Smith Square. Continue reading
Fitzwilliam & Friends: Purcell + Pergolesi +
Fitzwilliam String Quartet, Julia Doyle, Clare Wilkinson
Kings Place. 29 September 2016
Music by Purcell, Marcus Barcham Stevens, Jackson Hill, Rachel Stott, and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater
Kings Place’s 2016 ‘Baroque Unwrapped’ series continued with a fascinating combination of musical styles performed by the period instrument Fitzwilliam String Quartet together with their ‘Friends’, soprano Julia Doyle (pictured) and mezzo Clare Wilkinson, two of the finest singers around, with Laurence Cummings, harpsichord and organ. They opened collectively with three groups of pieces selected from Purcell’s Fairy Queen, King Arthur, and Dido and Aeneas. Julia Doyle and Clare Wilkinson were outstanding soloists in piece such as If Love’s a Sweet Passion’, The Plaint, Fairest Isle and Dido’s Lament. I was particularly impressed with Julia Doyle’s beautiful singing and her excellent use of ornaments: she is one of the few singers who can manage a proper trill, rather than just relying on vibrato.
With the departure of the ‘friends’, the Fitzwilliam Quartet continued with Purcell’s Fantazia 7 followed by three of the specially commissioned Continue reading
Anne Boleyn’s Songbook
Alamire, David Skinner
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 13 Sept 2015
Having recently dusted off ‘The Spy’s Choirbook’, a manuscript by Alamire in the British Library, David Skinner and Alamire have now turned their attention to a manuscript that (arguably) belonged to Anne Boleyn, currently in the Royal College of Music (MS1070). The inscription ‘Mistres ABolleyne nowe this’ indicates the link to Anne, the ‘Mistres’ suggesting that the songbook was started before she became Queen in 1533 – and, I suggest, also before she became Marquess of Pembroke in 1532, and possibly before 1525 when her father was elevated to the peerage as a Viscount, or 1529 when he was created an Earl, both ranks giving Anne a courtesy title. ‘Nowe thus’ is her father’s motto.
David Skinner’s informative and user-friendly chats between the pieces of the concert explained his reasoning that this was indeed Anne’s songbook, not least on the basis of the contents of the book. The suggestion is that the book was started in Anne’s youth, during her time at the court of Margaret of Austria (Governor of the Haspburg Netherlands) in Mechelin, or when she was in the household of the Queen of France. Composers such as Compère, Brumel, Mouton and Josquin were all Franco-Flemish composers that Anne would have been familiar with during these times. A second layer of the book has clear references to later incidents in Anne’s complex life, not least to the early relationship between her and Henry VIII. One such example was the song Jouyssance vous donneray with the words ‘I will give you pleasure, my dear … everything will be good for those who wait’ – there is a suggestion that this is a song that Anne herself sang to Henry – who (we were gleefully told) she apparently pleasured “in the French manner” before their marriage. Continue reading
Mynstrelles with Straunge Sounds
Clare Wilkinson, Rose Consort of Viols
Delphian DCD34169. 67’20
Anon: And I were a maiden, De tous biens plaine, Fortuna desperate; Henry VIII: Helas madame, van Ghizeghem De tous biens plaine; Josquin: De tous biens plaine, attrib. Busnoys: Fortune esperée; Josquin: Fortuna desperate; Penalosa: Vita dulcedo / Agnus Dei II; Agricola: Cecus non iudicat de coloribus; Encina: Triste España; Martini: Des biens amors, La martinella; Josquin: In te Domine speravi; Anon: In te Domine sperabo, La quercia, Biblis; Encina: Fata la parte; Anon: La Spagna; Ponce: La mi sola Laureola; Cornysh: Fa la so; Anchieta: Con amores, la mi madre; Isaac: Agnus Dei II, Josquin: Adieu mes amours.
The Rose Consort is named after an English family of viol makers active around 1600. But for this CD they have gone back 100 years or so to perform on a set of viols based on those depicted on an altarpiece in Bologna dating from 1497, around the time of the very first documentary evidence of a consort of four viols – hence the CDs sub-title of ‘The Earliest consort music for viols’. And it is from Bologna that several of the pieces hail, from the manuscript Bologna Q.18. Continue reading
The Shakespeare Globe’s Sam Wanamaker Playhouse continued with its enterprising series of candle-lit musical events with ‘The Spy’s Choirbook’ (8 Feb 2015). The four singers of Alamire (along with The English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble) presenting extracts from the British Library’s sumptuous manuscript (Roy 8.g.vii) produced in Antwerp at the workshop of Petrus Imhoff, who changed his name to the more musically appropriate Alamire (A-la-mi-re, as he often signed his name).
Like many musicians of his time, Alamire was a spy who was well acquainted with many of the crowned heads of Europe, including Maximillian, Charles V and Christian II of Denmark. He acted for Henry VIII against the exiled Yorkist pretender, Richard de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk. He also presented Henry VIII with many musical gifts, including this enormous parchment manuscript, but amid accusations of counter-espionage he didn’t even receive thanks for his efforts, or his gifts. It was therefore perhaps apt that it turns out that the manuscript was in fact second hand, having been originally intended for Louise XII of France and Anne of Brittany. But, on the death of both of them, Alamire changed the dedication, and some of the words, to Henry and Catherine of Aragon who, like Louise and Anne, were desperate for a child. And so it is that London now has a collection of 34 motets works by the likes of Mouton, Josquin, Isaac and de la Rue.
Alamire’s director, David Skinner, conducted and introduced the story behind the manuscript. The whole manuscript has been recorded by substantially larger Alamire forces. The singing (from Clare Wilkinson, Nicholas Todd, Greg Skidmore and Rob Macdonald) was outstanding, as was the instrumental contributions, although I found the tenor shawm a rather better blend with the cornett and sackbuts than the alto shawm.