Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Introduxit me rex in cellam

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July 23, 2014

The first edition of these motets published in Rome in 1584 by Alessandro Gardano made no mention of the fact that they consisted entirely of texts drawn from the Canticum Canticorum – The Song of Songs. As Gardano and Palestrina became more confident of their acceptance subsequent editions mentioned the fact explicitly with phrases such as motettorum ex canticis Salomonis or Salomonis nimirum cantica on their title pages. They need hardly have bothered word had spread about the beauty of these latest madrigali spirituali and of how they could be sung by all kinds of small singing groups in low- or high-pitch performance. They sold like hot cakes so much so that there were multiple editions printed between 1587 and 1613. Introduxit me rex in cellam (The king brought me to his wine cellar;) is the twelfth in the series and like so many of its companions Palestrina's music matches perfectly the sensuality of the text. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Josquin Des Prez (±1450-1521): Recordare, virgo mater

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July 22, 2014

Some musicologists doubt whether this is really by Josquin but I think the fact that it survived only in Antico’s second book of motets which he published in 1520 isn't enough to discount it. It's got an unusual texture – three equal high voices being set against one low one, and is almost relentlessly energetic in its sense of swirling motion. It's not a piece I listen to often but I always enjoy it thoroughly when I do and hope you will too.

mfi

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John Sheppard (±1515-1558): Libera nos, salva nos I

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July 21, 2014

Although the text of Libera nos, salva nos is from the first antiphon at Matins on Trinity Sunday its  plea to to the Holy Trinity for freedom, redemption, and absolution is so general in tone that Sheppard's setting which most probably dates from his time at Magdalen College, Oxford was used on other occasions not the least of them being the twice-daily readings of this very text stipulated in Magdalen's statutes. It'smore than a little unusual for Sheppard's works because as you listen you can hear the cantus firmus in the lower voice. As a result of this the rate at which the harmonies change are really rather slow and this together with its modal stability creates the mood of serenity which deepens as the piece unfolds. It's one of my favourites amongs Sheppard's pieces for this reason. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Franz Joseph Haydn: Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo in B flat major Hob XXII 7 Kleine Orgelmesse

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July 20, 2014

Although he didn't date it we know from the original autograph that Haydn's Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo or the 'Kleine Orgelmesse' as it's also called, dates from the 1770s. The Sancti Joannis de Deo (Saint John of God) in the title is a reference to the patron saint of the Hospitallers of St John of God, commonly referred to as the St. John of God Brothers an order of monks who specialise in medical services. They believed strongly in music as a palliative which is why music played such a strong part in their religious services. Haydn was well acquainted with the order he'd played the violin in their Viennese church during the 1750s and had composed numerous small pieces for them during his youth. If you ever come across early Haydn pieces that deal with an Advent theme the chances are it was written for the Barmherzigen Brüder. Nor did his connections cease as he grew older as the Eszterházy's were generous and regular benefactors of the order.

Based on the sparsity of the musical forces for which he wrote it I think it most likely that Haydn wrote this Mass for performance in the small church in Eisenstadt. The 'Missa brevis' in the title means that it's for routine services that is for performance on days weren't important feast days or celebrating a patron's nameday. The word 'brevis' means 'short' or 'brief' and there are several techniques a composer can make use of to achieve brevity. One of them is polytextuality a technique in which several clauses of the lenghtier texts in the Mass are sung simultaneously if you listen to the Gloria and the Credo you can hear that Haydn did indeed set them polytexually. The technique was in widespread use at the time and indeed it would have been surprising if he had not used it. Don't let the fact that this is a short Mass lead you to undervaluing it short it may be but it's a supremely polished piece of music with many highlights. My personal highlights are the wonderfully contemplative opening and closing movements and the glorious solo of the Benedictus but there are many many more facets to this musical gem and no doubt as you listen you'll discover highlights of your own. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Masterclass

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July 19, 2014

Back in September 2011 I posted a superb performance of Tallis' 'Salvator mundi' by the Danish choir Herning Kirkes Drengekor (see: Saturday Chorale: Herning Kirkes Drengekor: Salvator Mundi – Thomas Tallis | Saturday Chorale) they're a superb choir and living proof that the vibrant Danish choral tradition is alive and well. They put in a lot of dedication and effort to their singing  and that includes collaborating with the celebrated  Jyske Sangskole's  masterclass programme. Hard work but a lot of fun too. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Domine quando veneris

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July 18, 2014

Palestrina's beautiful four-part (SATB) setting of the Matins Responsory from Office of the Dead is a hauntingly beautiful, heartfelt piece of music that never fails to move me. Enjoy :-). 

mfi

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Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Beatus vir RV598

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July 17, 2014

Beatus vir RV598 is the second of Vivaldi's two settings of Psalm 111 (112) based upon a now lost original that have survived (I wrote about the other one last week see: Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Beatus vir RV597 | Saturday Chorale). It's a setting in B flat major and it's something of an oddity because he set it for one coro in being, in a single movement,  but requiring both choir and soloists. This particular disposition of his musical forces makes it unique amongst his surviving sacred works. He must have written it for the Pietà during his first period there (1713–1719) so it's relatively early and he had to overcome several problems to do it not the least of which is the lenght of the text. He solved the problem by writing it as a massively expanded instrumental concerto. There are no less than twenty-five clearly distinguishable sections either ritornelli or episodes and he wanders all over the scale too there are six keys as well as the tonic. It's quite an engenious piece who but a supremely talented composer such as Vivaldi could pull off the trick of having the choir and the three soloist act both singly and in combination as though they were soloists in an instrumental concerto? It's a wonderful piece of music not as well known as RV598 but very well worth your while listening to. Keep your ear out for the six note underpinning cadential phrase – it's a lovely little thing. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Sicut lilium inter spinas

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July 16, 2014

berniniecstasy

Sicut lilium inter spinas (As the lily among the thorns) is the eleventh in the series of twenty-nine motets composed by Palestrina as a sort of vocal chamber music for performance by groups looking for music to be sung during private non-liturgical devotional meetings. The demand was high both because of the religious revival sweeping Italy but also because Palestrina's music like Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Theresa, and indeed much else of the religious art of the period tapped into a deep vein of sensuality. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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William Child (1606-1697): O praise the Lord

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July 15, 2014

William Child is largely forgotten today and when musicologists do discuss his music they tend to dismiss it as unimaginative and utilitarian. I very much doubt though that that is what his contemporaries and his successors, who included Blow and Purcell thought. We may today be grateful for our rich inheritance of music from Blow, Purcell, but it was Child who laid the groundwork for them by singledhandedly producing a vast output of church music for the Anglican church as it struggled to make a new start and re-establish its traditions after the 1660 restoration of the monarchy. His music served as a model for the first generation of Restoration composers and both Blow and Purcell thought sufficiently highly of his music to transcribe it and develop it further  for example by developing the aria-recitative structure which much of his music anticipates. His importance then is as a model but not only as a model, granted he wasn't a genius but even the most run-of-the-mill of his compositions are eminently listenable to and at his best his music shows both vitality and sensitivity to the the texts he was setting. I think it unfair to dismiss his music as nothing more than a way-point between Gibbons and Blow it's more accurate to see him as the first Restoration composer as the man who paved the way for Blow and Purcell. His anthem 'O Praise the Lord', a setting of the first four verses of Psalm 135, was 'Composed Upon the Restauration of the Church And Royall Family in 1660' and marks the start of the climb to greatness of English church music as it recovered from the devastation wrought upon it by the Puritans.  Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Philip Stopford: Do not be afraid — Choir of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral

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July 14, 2014

It's been a while since I posted any music by Philip Stopford. I like his music a lot, I think he's one of the most talented composers of choral music in the Britain today and greatly enjoyed listening to this anthem. So without further ado:

David Poulter and the Choir of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral perform Philip Stopford's anthem Do Not Be Afraid in Liverpool Cathedral

Enjoy :-) - mfi

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Feature: Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809): Mass in B flat major(Hob. XXII:12) ‘Theresienmesse’

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July 13, 2014

Haydn's Mass in B flat major (Hob. XXII:12) is generally referred to as the 'Theresienmesse' after the Empress Marie Therese of Austria (1778 –1851). It gets this nickname from the fact that the Empress was an enthusiastic follower of Haydn's music and ordered it to added to her collection once she became aware of its existence. But in fact the nickname is misleading as it wasn't composed for the Empress. It's the fourth in a series of six Masses that Haydn composed for performance at the local Bergkirche between 1796 and 1802 in honour of the birthday of Princess Maria Hermenegild (1768 – 1845) the wife of Haydn's employer Nikolaus II, Prince Esterházy (1765 – 1833). It's a typically Austrian piece of music whose structure and decoration Haydn intended to be the musical equivalent of the stunning interiors found in Central European Baroque and Rococo churches. Coupled to this traditionalism was a desire – entirely typical of the very devout Haydn, to create a joyful and forward-looking piece of music. From my viewpoint he not only succeeded in that aim he also created a piece of music that sounds fresh and vigorous to this day.

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Drakensberg Boys Choir: Music is my Life — 2014 New Boys First Song

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July 12, 2014

When a new year's intake start attending the Drakensberg Boys Choir School they get five weeks of tuition in how to sing choral music. Then they give their first public performance. This year's new boys sang Eugene Butler's 'Music is my Life'.   Enjoy :-).

mfi

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