Sunday Concert: Mikuláš Schneider-Trnavský ( 1881 – 1958 ) : Missa pastoralis " Alma nox" – Live recording

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December 21, 2014

Two weeks ago I briefly discussed the Eastern European tradition of the Missa pastoralis – Christmas Mass. The tradition is alive and well as this modern example of the genre shows us – it's a charming piece and I was quite taken with it. I can't give you any information about the composer Mikuláš Schneider-Trnavský other than that which you'll find on this Wikipedia page. Indeed until I started hunting down some of the Christmas Masses to be found on YouTubec I'd never even heard of him. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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American Boychoir School Training Choir Christmas Concert at Christ Church

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December 20, 2014

The American Boychoir runs a School Training Choir where boys learn how to sing choral music to the remarkably high standards of the ABC. As part of that training they give public concerts – this one is their Christmas Concert given on December 2nd, 2012 at Christ Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey. As you might expect it features superb singing and is most enjoyable.

mfi

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Dieterich Buxtehude (Attrib): Magnificat

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December 19, 2014

This Magnificat is attributed to Buxtehude mostly on the basis that it appears in Gustav Düben's collection of  scores. The score has Buxtehude's name on it in square brackets but if you look at the name it's very obviously been added by a later hand. Other than that the sole basis for the attribution seems to be that Bruno Grusnick who edited the first modern edition of Buxtehude's works said it was by Buxtehude. It's hard to see why he believed this as it doesn't resemble anything that Buxtehude ever wrote but Grusnick's assertion was the received wisdom until Martin Geck pointed out the obvious.

Whoever wrote it it's a charming piece (SSATB, with SSATB soli and instruments) that's greatly loved in Germany but for some odd reason or another is largely unknown outside of there. It's written in the Franco-Italian middle baroque bel canto style popularised by Carissimi and Lully and has some delighful triple time melodies. As you might expect from bel canto music there's a fair amount of diatonic harmonies and a very clear structure laid out in sections. The scoring is for two violins, two violas, cello, bass, and continuo. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Josquin Des Prez (±1450 1521): O virgo virginium

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December 18, 2014

I've written about the great 'O' antiphons frequently, or to be more precise I've written about seven of them. These are the seven antiphons that are sung in the week before Christmas starting with 'O Sapientia' and concluding ón December 23rd with 'O Emmanuel'  most people think that these seven antiphons – the 'Great Antiphons' as they are often referred to are the only antiphons for this time, but  this is wrong in fact there are other antiphons which are proper to this week as the list below which I take from Guéranger shows:

  • Dec. 17: O Sapientia (I)
  • Dec. 18: O Adonai (II)
  • Dec. 18: The Expectation Of The Blessed Virgin Mary (O Virgo virginum)
  • Dec. 19: O Radix Jesse (III)
  • Dec. 20: O Clavis David (IV), plus O Gabriel!
  • Dec. 21: Saint Thomas, Apostle
  • Dec. 21: O Oriens (V)
  • Dec. 22: O Rex Gentium (VI), plus O Rex pacifice
  • Dec. 23: O Emmanuel (VII), plus O Hierusalem!
  • Dec. 24:  Christmas Eve - The Vigil Of Christmas (Generally: Advent)

Of these 'extra' antiphons perhaps the best known is O Virgo virginum which is the antiphon for the Feast of The Expectation Of The Blessed Virgin Mary.  This was sung in England under the Sarum rite and also in Spain where the cult of The Virgin was – and is, particularly strong. During Josquin's time it was also popular in Rome which presumably is why he composed this very beautiful setting of it. I think it must be a relatively early work – by which I mean written relatively early on during Josquin's Roman period so 1480 or not long thereafter. It's a six-part setting that combines strict cantus firmus writing with some hauntingly beautiful free-flowing polyphony. It's almost Burgundian in sound and I can't help thinking that he wrote it as part of his tribute to Ockeghem and Regis. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Maria Durch Ein Dornwald Ging: Christopher Wren Singers

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December 17, 2014

This beautiful old German carol is one that I never can resist. It's of Thuringian origin and is known to have been sung there from the early 1400s on. (Although it's probably quite a bit older). The melody is very simple while the text recount recount a Christmas miracle. Of how Mary was passing through a forest which contained a thicket of rose bushes that hadn't bloomed for seven years. As she passed by clasping the Infant Jesus to her breast the rose bushes burst into flower. This is very typical medieval symbolism designed to be easily understood by congregations in what was an a peasant and pre-literate society. The image of the rose was very popular in medieval poetry and carols as an image of purity and grace while the barren thorn-wood represents the world fallen into sin and awaiting redemption. So the miraculous flowering of the roses would have been understood by people in the 1400s and earlier as proving both Mary's love for her child and the redemption being brought to the world by Christ. Enjoy :-)

markfromireland

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John Taverner (±1490–1545): Christe Jesu, pastor bone

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December 16, 2014

While the carols sung in Elizabethan England were often distinctly secular and in English, the music sung in the Cathedrals, at court, and in University Chapels was, despite the reformation, still permitted to be sung in Latin, of course making it crystal clear where your loyalties lay was also a very good idea. Taverner's Christe Jesu, pastor bone Jesu is a good example (as well of course as being very good music). Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Albert Cano

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December 15, 2014

One of the things about being interested in choral music is that you often think "I wonder what that chorister is doing now". Particularly for cathedral choirs the level of musical professionalism is so high that it's easy to forget that the singer is still a schoolboy or schoolgirl with years of schooling ahead of them before they even begin their lives and careers as adults. Once such chorister about whom I've wondered is Albert Cano, who sang and played both piano and organ at the famous Escolania de Montserrat.  He's now seventeen and from the videos of his performances made he was twelve and thirteen it was clear that he was going to go places. Now aged seventeen he's studied at Manchester's Chetham School and is currently studying in Los Angeles at the Colburn School. He returned to the Abbey at Montserrat for a visit and in the video below can see him play the piano and talk about how his time in the Escolania prepared him for what he's doing now. It's a fascinating and all too brief portrait of a very talented musician at the start of his career. The playlist I've embedded below consists of that video together with videos of him performing as twelve and thirteen year old schoolboy on piano and organ both as soloist and as accompanist. –  The entire set takes only 23 minutes  I promise you  you'll find it time well spent.

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Sunday Concert: Gala Concert "Music & Light" – Interkultur

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December 14, 2014

Nearly an hour and half of superb singing recorded live at this year's Canta al mar choral festival. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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All hail to the days (Drive the cold winter away)

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December 13, 2014

From about 1600 a carol to "Drive the cold winter away). Well it is getting to be that time of year. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Cristóbal de Morales (±1500 –1553): Magnificat III tone

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December 12, 2014

Cristóbal de Morales (±1500 –1553) was the first Spanish composer of the Renaissance to achieve international fame, his music was published and re-published appearing in at least thirty prints between 1535 and 1570. Musically he was very influential not least upon the youthful Palestrina who would have sung the Spanish master's music when he was in the choir of the Cappella Giulia. De Morales' setting of the Magnificat (Tone III) follows the sixteenth century custom of setting the Magnificat's twelve verses alternatim. The present performance has combined the two cycles so you can hear both the choral and organ settings of the verses. It's a lovely piece of Renaissance Marian music with some fine chordal writing and varying textures of two to six parts. The final verse is a triumph of compositional art in which the six voices contrast with the canticles basic four-voices leading them to a very evocative choir/organ combination. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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William Byrd (±1539-1623): Domine, quis habitabit?

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December 11, 2014

Like Domine ante te omne desiderium about which I wrote on August 29th of this year (see: William Byrd (±1539-1623): Domine ante te omne desiderium | Saturday Chorale) Domine, quis habitabit? is a Psalm motet and like Domine ante te omne desiderium it's an unpublished work. It's a relatively early piece, in fact it's undated but it must have been reasonably widespread by the 1590s and well-known because its source is a manuscript in score format dating from that time. (As a sidelight: Score format manuscripts were incredibly rare at that time). It's a striking piece of music and is one of the first times that I know where Byrd reserves an extra note at the top of the range for the final iteration – something that became one of his musical signatures in later motets. Its opening interval is a minor 6th which is both striking and unusual and proceeds by way of imitation and typically Byrdian density of texture and use of dissonance to a musically very satisfying conclusion. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Veni, dilecte mi

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December 10, 2014

pomegranate blossoms

Come, my beloved; let us go forth
into the fields, let us abide in the villages.
Let us arise and go early to the vineyards,
let us see if the vines flourish,
if the blossom be ready to bring forth fruits,
if the pomegranates are in flower.
There will I give thee my breasts.

The desert love poetry that is the Song of Songs is filled with eroticism and longing. In this the last of the twenty-nine motets based upon the Song of Songs Veni, dilecti me (Come my beloved …) the positively pants with the poet's desire to be with their beloved. The imagery of fruitfulness and lust combine to unforgettable effect, no wonder the Church authorities of Palestrina's time refused to let these poems to be set in Italian allowing them only to be set in Latin. Palestrina's settings of these poems manage to express the poet's longing in a restrained and elegant style while leaving no doubt about the subject matter. No wonder they went through eleven printings in a very short time. It's the last in the set of twenty-nine I hope you've enjoyed this series and its music. As always, enjoy :-)

mfi

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