Rydale Festival: 12 Days of Christmas
Echo Vocal Ensemble, The Gesualdo Six and The Swan Consort
Sarah Latto, Owain Park, Anita Datta
Filmed in Castle Howard, North Yorkshire
Released daily from 25th December to 6th January
A bit of Christmas enterprise comes from three UK choral ensembles, Echo Vocal Ensemble, The Gesualdo Six and The Swan Consort, in association with the Rydale Festival and Tidze. Under the banner of Give the gift of a Choral Christmas, they present a series of 12 short concerts, filmed in Castle Howard in North Yorkshire. Links to the videos are emailed every day between 25th December and 6th January, with catch up available until the end of January 2021. There are options for simple digital delivery (for £12) or two types of gift boxes (£24/34) with additional goodies. They can be used as a gift to friends, or to yourself.
Mottetti e Canzoni Virtuose
La Guilde des Mercenaires, Adrien Mabire
L’encelade ECL1703. 66’36
The principal interest in this 2018 recording of virtuoso Venetian music is in the choice of organ as accompanying instrument. Most of the programme notes are about the use of the organ in the 16th and 17th century, and its prominence in the repertoire of the time. The important thing, and the factor that sets this recording way above most others of a similar repertoire, is that they use a full-sized ‘church’ organ, rather than those weedy little box ‘continuo’ organ that are nearly always used by early music groups. Continue reading
Palestrina – Vol 8
The Sixteen, Harry Christophers
Coro COR16175. 73’21
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594) was one of the most influential composers of the Renaissance. His grasp of polyphony is combined with an ability to draw intense emotion from what might at first appear to be rather technical musical exercises. This 2019 release is the eighth in the series of Palestrina recordings from The Sixteen. Each CD has as its core a complete Mass setting, together with pieces on a related theme. On this occasion, the Eucharist-based theme is the Last Supper and Easter with the Missa Fratres ego enim accepi – not as well known as many of Palestrina’s Mass settings. As in previous releases, there are also motets and three settings from the Song of Songs. Continue reading
Musica per liuto e viola da mano nel cinquecento Napoletano
Outhere/Arcana AD 105. 59’54
As the title suggests, this recording focusses on the flourishing of music for lute and the viola da mano in early 16th-century Naples. The viola da mano is the Italian version of the Spanish vihuela, with the same tuning as a lute but in a guitar-shaped body, It has a slightly more delicate and resonant timbre than the lute, and is used for six of the 24 pieces on the CD. 15 of the tracks are premiere recordings with 11 taken from from the Barbarina lute book of the title, dating from around 1600 and now in the Kraków Biblioteka Jagiellońska (PL-Kj Mus. ms. 40032), having been removed from the Berlin Deutsche Staatsbibliothek during the war and lost to researchers until the 1980s. Continue reading
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 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.