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markfromireland

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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