CD#1 - William Byrd - Masses & Antiphons - Chanticleer
CD#2 - Pelham Humfrey - Verse Anthems - The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, Romanesca Nicholas McGegan, conductor
CD#3 - Orlando Gibbons - Second Service & Consort Anthems - The Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford, Bill Ives, director Fretwork
A fairly random collection of the sacred music of three English composers from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, each disc of this Harmonia Mundi three-disc set nevertheless has its attractive qualities. In the disc given to two masses and three motets by the celebrated William Byrd, the all-male Chanticleer sings with an austere warmth and an ardent severity that suit the music's stern sincerity. In the disc devoted to nine verse anthems by the far less known Pelham Humfrey, the combined forces of the Clare College Choir, Cambridge, directed by Timothy Brown, and the instrumental ensemble called Romanesca led by Nicholas McGegan plus five first-class English vocal soloists perform with the kind of dedicated enthusiasm and consummate musicianship that convincingly make the case for the unfamiliar music's greatness. And in the disc dedicated to the morning and evening Second Service plus related consort anthems by the great Orlando Gibbons, the combined forces of the Magdalen College Choir, Oxford, directed by Bill Ives accompanied by the five viols of the ensemble called Fretwork, turn in a performance of such purposeful strength and solemn intensity that they transform works composed four centuries ago into the incarnation of timeless spiritual aspirations. Although aficionados of English sacred music of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries may already have recordings of the works of Byrd and Gibbons included here, few will be likely to have recordings of much by Humfrey - and that may be this set's most persuasive recommendation. Harmonia Mundi's digital sound, which ranges from 1987 for the Byrd through 1992 for the Humfrey to 2003 for the Gibbons, is consistently clear, deep, and warm.
Музыкант елизаветинской Англии: статус, амбиции, контакты (А. Е. Майкапар)
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1. William Byrd
Masses & Antiphons
William Byrd (c. 1540-1623) was the chief musician of Elizabethan England. Appointed organist of Lincoln Cathedral at an early age, he became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1570, and had risen high enough in the royal favor five years later to secure a monopoly over printed music for himself and his teacher, Thomas Tallis. The quality of his music makes him the equal of such composers as Palestrina and Lassus. Yet his circumstances were very different from theirs. He was a tenacious Catholic in a Protestant country whose government was increasingly (if unwillingly) committed to punitive action against "recusants," those who refused to attend services in the reformed church.
A crucial event for Byrd, as for many others, must have been the execution in 1581 of Edmund Campion, one of the first martyrs of the Jesuit "mission" to reconvert England. The composer wrote a song commemorating his death, and was bold enough to publish it in 1588. His motet collections of 1589 and 1591 are full of texts about the second coming and the Babylonian captivity, texts which taken as a whole, point unmistakably to a militant, protesting attitude. Since the words were all biblical the music could not be construed as being seditious or treasonable. Indeed, it is likely that Byrd remained loyal to the Queen, yet there are records from the 1580s linking him with the Jesuit missionaries, particularly with their leader, Henry Garnet, himself a musical man.
In 1593 Byrd appears to have retired from active life at court; he moved his family from Harlington (near the present-day Heathrow airport) to a small village deep in the Essex countryside called Stondon Massey. Nearby lived a powerful friend and patron, the very rich Catholic nobleman, Sir John Petre. His house at Ingatestone seems to have been one of those centers in which religious observance was maintained, probably under the control of the dowager Lady Petre, well known as a fervent "Papist."
In this protected environment Byrd ventured an even more dangerous step. He wrote, and published between 1593 and 1595, three settings of the Ordinary of the Mass. Modeled on the Mass by the leading composer of Henry VIII's reign, John Taverner, these works were clearly intended as a special statement about the continuity of the Catholic tradition. Again, the government was not provoked, probably because the Masses did not flaunt their identity (they were published without a title-page) and because their texts were also part of the Anglican rite, which could legally be celebrated in Latin in places where it was understood.
As it turned out, the Masses were only the first installment of a grand liturgical plan that came to fruition much later. In 1605 Byrd published a collection entitled Gradualia, which contained settings of the Mass Propers (or variable texts) for several feasts of the church year that were particularly important to Roman Catholics. A second volume of Gradualia was published two years later - All Saints, Corpus Christi, and those celebrating the Virgin Mary. He also included a large number of settings of texts from the Book of Little Offices, commonly known as the Primer, the prayer book most popular with the Catholic laity in these times when access to a priest was both irregular and dangerous. The timing of publication, 1605, was unfortunate - it coincided with the infamous Gunpowder Plot in which a group of young Catholic hotheads attempted unsuccessfully to blow up the King and Parliament. Byrd appears to have withdrawn the book, but the atmosphere eased sufficiently two years later for him to publish a second volume containing Mass Propers (and office antiphons) for the major feasts of the church year - Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, and Whitsuntide. He included at the end impressive six-part settings of the texts for the Masses of Ss. Peter and Paul and St. Peter's Chains as a tribute to the dedicatee, Sir John Petre. Both books of Gradualia were reissued in 1610.
The music in these two great collections is in some ways very different from the ideal of the sixteenth-century motet, and from the rest of Byrd's output. Apart from the dedicatory six-part Petre music, there is little grandiloquence. On the contrary the words are set succinctly, even tersely, in a manner that seems understated until, after repeated hearings, the richness of its subtext rises in the mind's ear. There are a number of reasons for this. One is the "cut-and-paste" attitude Byrd adopted towards the Marian texts in Book I. Using the same mode and clefs for all 25 pieces, he did not reset duplicate texts, but left the singers to find them elsewhere in the book. Thus the Gradual for the Assumption is supplied from the music of the Annunciation, the Introit verse from the Nativity of the Virgin.
Another reason for the music's restraint is its liturgical purpose; decorum or appropriateness was the highest aesthetic principle of the age and one which Byrd fully respected. Another matter is the circumstance of performance. "These little flowers culled mostly from your gardens" (as Byrd calls the pieces in his dedication to Sir John) were designed not for serried ranks of male choristers in over-resonant Gothic cathedrals but for domestic Mass at the Petres, where (as in other Catholic households) the rite might be celebrated in the dining hall (at best) or more likely in some out-of-the-way chamber penetrated only by the family and by trusted retainers and friends, with a handful of trained musicians to perform under the composer's direction.
The intimacy of the music nevertheless encourages a certain spiritual intensity that Byrd had not attempted in his earlier, more flamboyant, motets. This is amply illustrated in the setting of the Communion for the Assumption (Optimam partem), which searches sublimely for an expression of the mystery of virgin birth. The Assumption Mass is accompanied here by three of the Marian office antiphons, one of them being called Ave Regina caelorum.
The Easter music from Book II is perhaps the most concentrated and unified of the Mass cycles. In the setting of the sequence Victimae Paschali Byrd allows himself a certain drama, which carries through to the earthquake music of the Offertory and sets off the limpid mysticism of the Communion all the more powerfully. It is in music like this that one senses not only Byrd's mastery as a composer, but his firm commitment to the Roman Catholic cause which he served so faithfully.
- Philip Brett
2. Pelham Humfrey
"Thence I away home... and there I find... little Pellam Humphreys, lately, returned from France and is an absolute Monsieur, as full of form and confidence and vanity, and disparages everything and everybody's skill but his own. The truth is, everybody says he is very able; but to hear how he laughs at all the King's music here... would make a man piss."
Thus Samuel Pepys on 15 November 1667. He had heard an anthem by him performed by the Chapel Royal a fortnight earlier:
"a fine An theme... of which there was great expectation; and endeed is a very good piece of Musique, but still I cannot call the Anthem anything but Instrumentall music with the voice, for nothing is made of the words at all."
This was his debut after his period of travel abroad. Humfrey (Humphryes, Humphreyes, Humphries, Humphrey, etc: the usual modern spelling follows his autograph will) was born in 1647 and became a choirboy in the Chapel Royal at its re-establishment on the return of Charles II from his French exile in 1660. Several of his anthems were performed there; Pepys heard an anthem by "a pretty boy" on 22 November 1663, noting that the king "kept good time with his hand all along the Anthem." When his voice broke in 1664, Humfrey visited France and Italy, paid for by the funds from both the Chapel Royal account and the Secret Service; the latter need not imply that he was expected to act as a spy, except on musical matters. His subsequent music showed that he used his time well; he rapidly became London's leading composer of church music and at the time of his early death in 1674 was having some success with music for the stage, notably in The Tempest.
It is, however, his anthems that constitute his most substantial legacy. There are 18 of them (including one written in collaboration with fellow-choirboys John Blow and William Turner). Humfrey took his instrumental and choral style from the French court. Charles II notoriously liked anthems to sound like dances, and Humfrey obliged with extensive string symphonies and ritornellos. These form a framework around the different, much more introvert writing for solos and small ensembles. Pepys' criticism of his word-setting is surprising, for it is Humfrey's flexible and expressive adaptation of the Italian recitative style to English words that is such a memorable feature of the works. The settings are almost entirely syllabic - one note to each syllable as advocated for church music a century previously - but, what was then intended to emphasise sobriety now added to its intensity.
The anthems of Humfrey, along with those of his contemporary Matthew Locke, did not, with the exception of Hear, O Heav'ns, survive in English church usage. They were too acerbic for cathedral tastes and were too dependant on soloists and instruments for amateur church choirs of the Victorian period and after. The Chapel Royal was a comparatively small building, and these works responded more to a chamber style of performance than an ecclesiastical one, though they do need the larger forces of instrumental ensemble and choir. A Cambridge college chapel is an ideal ambience, and it is particularly appropriate that this disc was recorded at Clare College since, for a while, the scholar chiefly responsible for studying and reviving the music of Pelham Humfrey was a Fellow in the 1970s.
- Clifford Bartlett
The new editions by the present writer used for this recording differ in some respects from Dennison's (Musica Britannica, vols. xxxiv & xxxv, 1972-74). The anthems survive in copies made towards the end of the 17th century, the two main scribes being John Blow and William Isaack. In some cases where there are discrepancies, Dennison took the version copied by Blow. Blow was not, however, a professional copyist, and is more likely to have made "improvements" while copying than a lesser musician like Isaack. Dennisons notation of binary instrumental movements is misleading now that they are performed fast enough for each half to be repeated, and his edition obscures the fact that the strings double the voices in sections with full choir.
3. Orlando Gibbons
Second Service & Consort Anthems
On 18 August 1673 Benjamin Rogers, the Instructor of the Choristers at Magdalen College, Oxford, acquired a treasured item. It was a music book. Not just any ordinary music book, but one, according to Rogers' inscription on the first page, that 'was done formerly by that rare Musitian, Mr Orlando Gibbons.' The book is now in the library of Christ Church, Oxford, as MS 21, and its authenticity has been challenged for various reasons. Still, there are a number of factors that support the notion that the book was once the property of someone close to the composer, if not the man himself. Annotations (apparently in Rogers' hand) appear alongside several works concerning their origin and the book itself is arranged in score format (quite unusual for the time), suggestive of a composer's sketchbook, and, perhaps, one intended for the eyes of a publisher. With this in mind, it is interesting to find that the book was presented to Rogers by 'John Playford, Stationer in the Temple London'. From 1651 to 1684 Playford dominated the music publishing trade in London, and it is not difficult to imagine how he might have come in contact with such a manuscript. It is known that Playford had personal links with Rogers as well as the son of Orlando Gibbons, Christopher (who has also been suggested as the scribe of MS 21). Whatever the true origins of the book, it is a significant survivor, not only for the music it preserves, but also for the fact that the parts are laid in such a format as to suggest that many (if not most) of Gibbons' verse anthems now extant only with organ accompaniment were originally conceived for concerted instruments.
There is little doubt that such works would have been performed in a domestic context with viols (or various combinations of instruments), but there is little evidence that viols would have been a regular occurrence in a liturgical context; on the other hand there is also very little evidence that viols were not used in church, again, perhaps, suggesting that they were commonplace. Thus, the debate can continue. What is clear is that voices and viols seem, on a practical level, ideally suited to Gibbons' sacred music, and one might argue that much of the contrapuntal detail in versions with organ accompaniment can be significantly better realized with the contribution of viols.
Gibbons, like his great predecessor William Byrd, began his musical career at a young age; Byrd was over 40 years older than Gibbons, although Gibbons outlived the older composer by only two years. Unlike Byrd, very few of Gibbons' works were published during his lifetime, and, although their religious ideals were widely polarized from Catholic to Protestant, the two men certainly would have moved in similar musical circles at court and in London. Born in Oxford, Gibbons was baptized in St Martin's church on Christmas Day 1583. He spent the first four years of his life in that city, and then moved with his parents to Cambridge, where, in February 1596, he was admitted as a chorister in the choir of King's College. By 1605 he had elevated to the lofty position of Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, a position he kept until his untimely death in 1625.
To judge from his surviving musical output, Gibbons seems to have mastered all the compositional styles and forms of his time. Apart from a large quantity of keyboard works, secular songs and consort music, it is the excellence of his church music that has established his place as one of the greatest composers of the early 17th century. His sacred music can be divided into three general categories: hymns, services, and anthems. George Wither published seventeen of the composer's hymn tunes in 1623. Song 1 and Song 9 (tracks 6 & 8) today grace the pages of several hymn books, although for the present recording the original words of the first verse of each Song have been restored to that which appears in the 1623 publication.
Only two services by Gibbons exist today, and there is no indication of his having written others. The unaccompanied Short Service is for four voices, composed in a simple, syllabic style, while the so-called Second (or Verse') Service (tracks 4-5, 9-10) is constructed on a much grander scale with instrumental or organ accompaniment. Much of the Second Service survives in a fragmentary state - especially the morning canticles Te Deum and Jubilate - and major reconstruction of the work is required for a modern performance. However, what does survive provides enough information to reconstitute what may have been many of Gibbons' original ideas. One good example is the section of the Jubilate (track 5), 'be ye sure that the Lord he is God', where only a single treble voice survives. That voice, however, works with itself in canon, creating two parts; a third part can also be found in imitation, and, with the final addition of a bass, the passage is complete. Elsewhere in the Second Service the majority of the vocal parts are intact, but the accompaniment exists only as a skeletal organ part. What does survive, however, shows that the accompaniment was almost certainly conceived by Gibbons as independent parts. This, of course, would not preclude the service being performed with organ reduction when viols (or even cornets and sackbuts) were not available.
MS 21 (Rogers' scorebook) contains the three verse anthems recorded here. This is the record of John (track 1) is one of Gibbons' best-known works. According to a gloss in the manuscript 'the Contratenor sings alone throughout', thus creating a dramatic narrative between the solo voice and full choir. A further gloss shows that the work was intended to be performed on St John Baptist Day, and 'was made for Dr Laud presedent of Sant Johns Oxford', which seems to suggest a liturgical performance, perhaps as an anthem after Evensong on the feast-day itself. The composition dates from between 1611 and 1621, i.e., when William Laud was President of St John's College.
Great King of Gods (track 12) is today better known as Great Lord of Lords, the latter text being a liturgical adaptation by Henry Ramsden Bramley, who was a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, in the late 19th century. The original text was written on the occasion of King James Is visit to Scotland in 1617, when, in May of that year, the English Chapel Royal, very likely accompanied by Gibbons himself, travelled to Scotland by sea and performed a celebration of the Anglican Rite at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. See, see, the Word is incarnate (track 13) seems to have been written a few years earlier. A note in MS 21 states that 'the words were made by Doctor Goodman De:[an] of Rochester.' Goodman was made dean early in 1621, but the anthem also appears in Myriell's Tristitiae remedium of 1616. The text recounts the life of Christ from birth to resurrection, and here Gibbons responds with suavity, verve and passion, deploying various combinations of solo passages with full chorus.
Of Gibbons' full anthems (i.e., without accompaniment) Almighty and everlasting God (track 2), with its beautiful simplicity of harmony and structure, is among the shortest and most understated in that genre. Conversely, the 8-part O clap your hands (track 11) is one of the most brilliant and energetic of all his compositions. The anthem was composed for the occasion of William Heyther's Oxford doctorate in May 1622. Heyther was to become the first Professor in Music at Oxford, although he apparently possessed no compositional skills. The University statutes stipulated that the candidate must present an 8-part composition to supplicate for the degree, and Orlando Gibbons seems to have borne the formalities and produced 'Dr Heyther's Commencement Song'; it was on this same occasion that Gibbons (with Nathaniel Giles) took the Oxford doctorate, having taken the Cambridge B.Mus. in 1606 (although there now is some question as to whether Gibbons actually received the Oxford degree).
In 1623, at the age of 39, Gibbons was appointed organist of Westminster Abbey. In the following year the Abbey served as the venue for an official visit by the French ambassador and his retinue; on entering the west door of the Abbey it was remarked that 'the organ was touched by the best finger of that age, Mr. Orlando Gibbons.'
However, his musical genius was to be cut drastically short. On 27 March 1625 James I died. A few months later the new king, Charles I, travelled to Dover to meet his wife Henrietta Maria, a girl of fifteen. Gibbons was among this company, and when the procession stopped in Canterbury on Whit-Sunday, 5 June, the composer suffered a massive seizure and died. One contemporary report states that
... he fell in most strong, & sharp convulsions: w'ch did wring his mouth up to his eares, & his eyes were distorted, as though they would have beene thrust out of his head & then suddenly he lost both speech, sight, & hearing, & so grew apoplecticall & lost the whole motion of every part of his body, & so died.
His body was examined, and found to be Very cleene w[ith]out any show or spott of any contagious matter.' He was buried on the following day, 6 June 1625, in Canterbury Cathedral, where a monumental tablet was erected and still stands today.
Who could say what music might have been produced had Gibbons lived further into the 17th century. While the music of William Byrd is often considered to have brought England in line with the Renaissance, the music of Gibbons is likewise seen to anticipate the early Baroque. Such was the evolution of English church music, a school whose tradition looked back to Robert Fayrfax and John Taverner, and whose path was to lead to Henry Purcell and beyond. Among these great men Gibbons stands as a pivotal figure, his artistry of invention and diversity in character playing a prominent role in the history of the English musical arts.
- David Skinner (Magdalen College, Oxford)
Chanticleer has developed a remarkable reputation over its 22-year history for its interpretation of vocal literature, from Renaissance to jazz, and from gospel to venturesome new music. With its seamless blend of twelve male voices, ranging from countertenor to bass, Chanticleer has earned international renown as "an orchestra of voices."
Since the creation of a mixed voice choir in 1971, The Choir Of Clare College, Cambridge has gained an international reputation as one of the leading university choral groups in England. In addition to its primary task of leading chapel services, the Choir gives frequent concerts in the United Kingdom and abroad, and broadcasts regularly. The choir has toured to the United States of America, Japan, China, Russia, the Middle East, many countries within Western and Eastern Europe, and has made many successful recordings. The choir is conducted by the Director of Music, who is a Fellow of the College, assisted by two undergraduate organ scholars.
Tim Brown has been Director of Music at Clare College since 1979. He is Director of Studies in Music at Clare and Pembroke Colleges, Cambridge. Tim Brown received his initial musical training as a chorister at Westminster Abbey, and later as a member of the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge. For many years he conducted the Cambridge University Chamber Choir and is now the director of the London-based professional chamber choir, English Voices. Invited as a guest conductor in many countries, for the academic year 2005-2006 he served as interim director of choral activities at Westminster Choir College, USA.
Nicholas McGegan was born in England, and studied at Cambridge and Oxford Universities. He is Music Director of the San Francisco-based Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Artistic Director of Germany's International Handel Festival, Gottingen, Baroque Series Director of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Artist in Residence of The Milwaukee Symphony, Music Director of the Irish Chamber Orchestra, Artistic Director of that orchestra's summer home, the Killaloe Festival, and guest conducts many of the world's symphony orchestras.
The Choir Of Magdalen College, Oxford In 1480 provision was made at Magdalen for eight singing-men, four chaplains and 16 choristers, creating one of the oldest and largest choral foundations in late-medieval England. With the more recent addition of four clerks and two Organ Scholars, that tradition has been maintained to this day. The main duty of the Choir is to sing daily in the College Chapel and also at a number of special occasions throughout the academic year, including the great May Day celebrations, an ancient tradition dating back to c. 1509. In recent years Magdalen College Choir has sung in Japan, USA, Hungary, Italy, Belgium and France and has also featured on film and television, notably Richard Attenborough's acclaimed movie, 'Shadowlands'. In 2001 the Choir presented the first public performance of Ecce cor meum, a major new choral work written especially for them by Sir Paul McCartney.
Bill Ives, Organist and Director of Music, still retains the ancient title of Informator Choristarum and Tutor in music at Magdalen College, a post which has been held in the past by many notable musicians. A former member of the Kings Singers, he has a special interest in composing, and many of his published works, both sacred and secular, are regularly performed. A recording of Ives' choral works can be heard on the recently released Listen sweet dove (hmu 907420).
Fretwork Since its London debut in 1986, the viol ensemble Fretwork has become established both as a leading force in early music and an inspiration to contemporary composers; its repertory spans the entire English consort tradition, including songs and verse anthems, alongside music from 16th- and 17th-century Europe, as well as new works written especially for the consort. Fretwork performs and broadcasts regularly in the UK and has toured widely in many countries. It now records exclusively for harmonia mundi usa.