Adrian Willaert (±1490-1562): Saluto te sancta virgo

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January 30, 2015

Adrian Willaert's four-part motet Saluto te sancta virgo must have made quite an impression on his contemporaries because it can be found in a number of sources not the least of which is the Medici Codex, a collection of 53 motets compiled for Pope Leo X (the first Medici pope) and presented by him as a wedding gift to his nephew Lorenzo de' Medici, Duke of Urbino, when the latter returned to Italy from France with his new bride Madeleine de la Tour d’Auvergne in 1518. Its composed in a symmetrical style that owes much to Mouton's music although unlike Mouton Willaert moves the statement and answer around rather than in a predictable succession as  Mouton would have done and unlike Mouton introduces changes to the imitative structure in the motet's second leading to new and interesting harmonics. It's a sophisticated piece of music calling for a certain amount of virtuosity on the part of those singing it as well as being a fervent and beautiful Marian motet. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Jacobus Clemens non Papa (±1510 – ± 1555): Tristitia obsedit me

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January 29, 2015

Girolamo SavonarolaThe text of this motet Tristitia obsedit me is based on Savanarola's unfinished meditation on Psalm 31. Savanarola ran foul of the Pope and Florence's rulers, was arrested, tortured, and condemned to death. While awaiting execution he composed two meditations on the Psalms. Infelix Ego a meditation on Psalm 51 and this one which Savanarola didn't manage to finish. Both were published after his death and their affirmation of faith following torture and in the face of imminent death along with his other writings were hugely influential throughout Europe.  In his setting Clemens non Papa took  Savanarola's text and condensed and conflated it to create a motet with two distinct sections. The first deals with Savanarola's despair while the second treats of his return to faith and hope and his appeal to God for mercy and forgiveness. Even allowing for the changes he made it must have been a difficult task to set the text but Clemens non Papa succeeded brilliantly by making heavy use of closely spaced imitative repetition to produce a vivid and remarkably fervent piece of music. The effect on his contemporaries – who would have been well aware of the text's religious and political import, must have been stunning. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Wednesday Earwig: Boys’ Choir St. Petersburg — The Lion sleeps Tonight

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January 28, 2015

Sung with great verve at as you might expect from this superb Russian choir. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Christian Ludwig Boxberg (1670-1729): Bestelle Dein Haus

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January 27, 2015

Boxberg isn't terribly well known today and this is one of the few pieces of his music that's been recorded. He was born on April 24th 1670 in Sondershausen´and was a student under Johann Schelle at Leipzig's Thomasschule between 1682 and 1686. He had a solid rather than a spectacular career with a ten year stint as organist in Grossenhain, (north of Dresden) between 1692 and 1702. He had two musical careers a religious one and a secular one, the secular being defined by his association with Leipzig where he studied under the Leipzig Opera's director Nikolaus A. Strungk for four years between 1688 and 1692 as well being active as a singer, librettist, and composer of operas in his own right. He was evidently well thought of as a composer because his operas were performed at the court of Ansbach. However he renounced his operatic career in 1702 to take up an appointment as  organist at the church of Ss Peter und Paul in Görlitz where he remained until his death twenty-seven years later. While in Görlitz he wrote a number of cantatas  in a variety of forms including both choral works and solo cantatas for soprano and trio sonata accompaniment.

Bestelle Dein Haus (Set thy house in order) is a funerary cantata, I don't know whether it was written for a particular occasion or for general use, it's an interesting and worthwhile piece of music that makes good use of the chorale. The text makes use of Isaiah 38:1 and Psalm 39:4. If in places it's reminiscent of the Actus Tragicus that's because Bach made made use of the same texts and the same musical rhetoric. (He was also by no means averse to quoting other composers). But the approach Boxberg adopted is on the whole very different from Bach's. For a start Isaiah's injunction to "set thy house in order" comes before the psalmic commentary which Boxberg develops further by combining it with a somewhat terse movement that contrasts the bass with the choir (Herr, lehre doch mich … (psalm 39)).  In fact terseness is perhaps the defining characteristic of this cantata – Boxberg made use of the musical rhetoric expected in a funerary cantata such as the tremolo repeated notes on the stringed instruments which in baroque sacred music by convention represents the Christian soul's dread of condemnation and awe of God. He made use of it and it's a competent piece of music that repays the time spent listening and helps place Bach's music in perspective of the music of his time. Bach took up where Boxberg left off and in BWV 106 brought the rhetoric to as close to musical perfection as we're likely to hear in this life.

markfromireland

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William Byrd (±1539-1623): Deficit in dolore

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January 26, 2015

Byrd's AATTB motet Deficit in dolore (Wasted in grief) takes its text from the psalms and free text he published it in the 1589 Cantiones sacrae. Like much in that book Byrd selected and arranged the texts to describe personal suffering before expressing hope. 

mfi

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BBC Documentary: David Starkey’s MUSIC & MONARCHY 4. Re-inventions

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January 25, 2015

Dr David Starkey's exploration of how the monarchy shaped Britain's music concludes with the 19th and 20th centuries, when the crown rediscovered the power of pageantry and ceremony and when native music experienced a renaissance.

David discovers the royal origins of such classics as Edward Elgar's 'Land of Hope and Glory', Hubert Parry's 'I Was Glad' and William Walton's 'Crown Imperial', as well as finding out how the twentieth century's coronations - culminating in the crowning of Elizabeth II - cemented the repertory of royal classics in the hearts of the British people. He hears music written by Queen Victoria's beloved Albert, Prince Consort, played for him in Buckingham Palace on a lavish golden piano which was bought by Victoria and Albert themselves. There are also specially recorded performances from St Paul's Cathedral Choir and Westminster Abbey and of works by Felix Mendelssohn, Arthur Sullivan, Charles Villiers Stanford, and Ralph Vaughan Williams, as well as Hubert Parry's classic 'Jerusalem'.

David uncovers a rarely seen, diamond-encrusted conductor's baton that was a gift from Queen Victoria to her private organist, Sir Walter Parratt. He also recounts the duets sung by Italian opera composer Gioacchino Rossini with George IV in his decadent pleasure palace, the Brighton Pavilion; and visits the Royal College of Music in London, and St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, both of which played a crucial role in the revival of British music.

Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Rutter – Blow thou winter wind – The Cambridge Singers – YouTube

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January 24, 2015

Rutter's setting of Amiens' song from  Act II, Scene VII of As You Like It, sung here by The Cambridge Singers. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Franz Tunder (1614-1667): Salve mi Jesu

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January 23, 2015

Tunder tends to get just a footnote in the musical histories as Buxtehude's father in law, predecessor, and founder of the tradition of Abendmusik concerts that Buxtehude brought to full fruition.  His contemporaries thought very well him and he was well-travelled having studied under such masters as Borchgrevinck in Copenhagen and Frescobaldi in Florence before accepting the post of Werckmeister (administrator and treasurer of the church) and organist of the Marienkirche in Lübeck. Prior to accepting the Marienkirche post he was the music tutor to Johann Georg I of Saxony daughters and this makes me suspect that he was appointed to the position in Lübeck specifically as a moderniser. He soon made his presence felt introducing the music of such Italian masters as Grandi, Rovetta, and Vesi to the North German city. Not much of his own music has survived but that which has is certainly worth listening to. His motet Salve mi Jesu the text of which is the Marian Salve with Jesus' name being substituted for that of The Virgin is very Italianate both in structure and in the vocalisms you'll find it below together with a translation of the text showing both the original and the adaptations – enjoy :-).

mfi

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The Georgia Boy Choir – Magnificat – Collegium Regale

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January 22, 2015

The Georgia Boy Choir singing Magnificat - Collegium Regale, by Herbert Howells. This performance was recorded on June 8, 2012 during the GBC Scandinavian Tour in Copenhagen, Denmark at Church of Our Lady (Copenhagen Cathedral).

Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Hats!

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January 21, 2015

In which the boys of the Choral school for boys DUBNA sing to us most enjoyably of hats. My first earwig of the year. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Dum complerentur

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January 20, 2015

Palestrina 180x179 captioned Palestrina first published his six-part (SAATTB) Pentecostal motet Dum complerentur in 1589 in the Liber primus motettorum. It's a musical depiction of the 'rushing wind' that filled the house in which the Apostles were hiding when the Holy Spirit descended upon them. It's very cleverly done he uses the Alleluias that mark the end of sections in the text to cue the musical figure whose vigorous forward flow depicts the wind. If you take a look at the score you'll see that it's very densely written with each phrase having it's own motif this makes it quite difficult to sing but the effect is oh so beautiful when the choir succeeds in pulling it off as you can hear below. Enjoy.

mfi

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Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611): Te Deum laudamus

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January 19, 2015

The 'Te Deum' or 'Te Deum Laudamus' (We praise you, God) to give it its full name is an ancient hymn of thanksgiving that at least in parts dates back to before 350 A.D. Current usage is to sing it at the end of Matins on Sundays or on Feast days but in earlier times it was used as a processional chant, at major occasions such as consecrations of churches, the installation of bishops, the coronation of a monarch, and last but by no means least to celebrate military victories.  De Victoria's setting which was published in Madrid in 1600 divides the text into thirty-one verses which he then sets alternatim with alternate verses set to chant and for the full choir.

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