Virgin and Child
Music from the Baldwin Partbooks II
Contrapunctus, Owen Rees
Signum Classics SIGCD474. 75’18
Tallis: Gaude gloriosa Dei mater, Magnificat, Videte miraculum; and pieces by Taverner, White, Fayrfax, and Sheppard.
The Baldwin Partbooks were copied in the 1570s and 80s by a member of the choirs of St George’s Windsor and the Chapel Royal, John Baldwin. They included printed pieces as well as Baldwin’s manuscript copies of music, from an earlier age, resulting in one of the most important surviving collections of polyphony from the reigns of Henry VIII and Mary Tudor. This, combined with a focus on music dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is the focus of the music on this volume, the second in the Contrapunctus series on music of the Baldwin Partbooks (the first was In the Midst of Life, SIGCD408). Continue reading
Taverner: Western Wynde Mass, Missa Mater Christi sanctissima
The Choir of Westminster Abbey, James O’Donnell
Hyperion CDA68147. 58’36
Jeremy Summerly’s comprehensive programme note opens with the suggestions that “Early Tudor England was insular and the attitude of its people xenophobic”, quoting an Italian visitor in 1497 that “they have a antipathy to foreigners”, an unfortunate habit that sadly still seems to be the case, at least for around 52% of the population. John Taverner was very clearly an exception to this view, at least musically, for he relished the music coming from the continent. This CD indicates two particular influences, with the complex polyphony and imitative writing of the likes of Josquin featuring in the Missa Mater Christi sanctissima and, in the Western Wynde Mass, as Summerly puts it “a Lutheran dexterity in his use of a secular model for a piece of sacred music”. Continue reading
John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea
The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips
Gimell Records CDGIM046. 62’07
John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea, Dum transisset Sabbatum I and II
It is very tempting, and indeed, very enjoyable, to let Renaissance vocal music just waft over you as a seemingly amorphous wave of music, ebbing and flowing like the tide. You can do this with this CD of Taverner’s extraordinary Missa Corona spinea, but from the very start you will realise that this is something very different. Just three notes in (after a rather curious 12 second pause at the start of the first track), the Treble line (sung by a pair of sopranos) soars up to a high B flat. From then on, this Treble line has very little chance to relax, and always seems to be attracted to this high note. This expansive vocal range is a feature of all the movements, and it grabs the attention. For example, in the Credo the Et expecto section starts with two bass lines before the treble enters two and a half octaves above them – the final cadence has a four octave span from top to bottom. The use of a double bass line is also unusual. And if you ever wondered what a Gimell was, there are two examples here, where the Trebles divide into two parts (track 7), later doing the same together another divided part (track 10) to form a double Gimell. This Mass was clearly intended for a special occasion and includes some remarkable features. Continue reading
Loquebantur: Music from the Baldwin Partbooks
The Marian Consort (dir. Rory McCleary) & Rose Consort of Viols
Delphian DCD34160. 66’12
Parsons: The Song Called Trumpets; Tallis: Loquebantur variis linguis; Mundy: Adolescentulus sum ego; Byrd: Canon Six in One, O salutaris hostia; Aston: Hugh Astons Maske; Gerarde: Sive vigilem; Bevin: Browning; Ferrabosco: I Da pacem Domine; Lassus: Ubi est Abel; Hollander: Dum transisset Sabbatum; Tallis: Suscipe quaeso Domine; Taverner: Quemadmodum; Mundy: Adhaesit pavimento; Baldwin: Coockow as I me walked; Sheppard: Ave maris stella.
I reviewed The Marian Consort in their concert during the Regensburg Tage Alter Musik festival, where they sang music from the Robert Dow partbooks, dating from the mid-1580s. My review of their CD of that music can be found here. Their latest CD explores another manuscript from Christ Church Oxford, the Baldwin Partbooks, a very personal collection of pieces that Baldwin would have got to know during his time as a lay clerk at St George’s Windsor and in the Chapel Royal. He is also known as the copyist of My Ladye Nevells Booke. One of the six vocal partbooks is missing, so some detective work and reconstruction has been required. At the end of the manuscript are some untexted, and presumably instrumental, pieces here played by the Rose Consort of Viols. Continue reading
Tallis Scholars: 2000th concert
St John’s Smith Square, 21 September 2015
Taverner: Leroy Kyrie; Sheppard: Missa Cantate; Gabriel Jackson: Ave Dei Patris filia; Byrd: Infelix Ego. Ye Sacred Muses, Tribue Domine.
The Tallis Scholars were founded in 1973 in Oxford and gave their first London concert in St John’s, Smith Square three years later. They returned there for their 2000th concert with an adventurous programme centred on the extraordinary, but rarely performed Missa Cantate by the enigmatic John Sheppard. This is a curious work, although the title ‘Sing’ is pretty clear, as is its festal nature. It probably dates from the mid-1550s during Queen Mary’s reign. As was usual in England in masses of this kind, the Kyrie was not set (something that escaped the attention of the programme compiler who listed a Kyrie in the text translations). To make up for that, John Taverner’s ‘Leroy’ Kyrie opened the concert, its slowly three lower unfolding melismatic lines supporting a treble cantus that might have been composed by Henry IV or V – hence the Le Roy name. This revealed what became one of the highlights of the evening: the outstanding singing by the four sopranos whose clear, unaffected and focussed voices were a constant delight. Continue reading