Sunday Concert: František [Franz] Xaver Brixi (1732-1771): Missa Pastoralis – Live from Tišnov 26.12.2013

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December 7, 2014

A Missa Pastoralis  or a Missa Pastoralis in honorem Nativitatis Domini to give them their full title is a Christmas Mass they're a Christmas Tradition in Eastern European countries such as Poland, The Czech Republic, and Slovakia in particular although you'll also hear them in Austria and Germany. I think of them as the liturgical equivalent of the Italian Christmas Concerto that often feature the melodies of folk music or traditional carols and as you might expect from a Mass written for Christmas are always lively and cheerful affairs. I always enjoy hearing fresh examples. The Missa Pastoralis by F. X. Brixi that you can hear below is a great example of the genre. It was performed live at St. Wencelas Church, Tišnov, on December 26th of last year by the combined forces of the Královopolský and PEVEKO choirs and the Tišnovský Chamber Orchestra conucted by Vit Marecek. Although today he's largely unknown outside of The Czech Republic and Bohemia in his time Brixi´'s fame was widespread. He was born in died in Prague and after studying at the Gymnasium Kosmonosy under Václav Kalous  who taught him both piano and choral theory and practice he took up a position as organist at St. Havel Church. Word of his talent spread and he rose quickly taking on ever more prestigious positions at the churches of St Martín, St Mikuláš and St Mary na Louži. Until aged only 27 he was granted the appointments of Kapellmeister of St Vít Cathedral and choirmaster of the Benedictine monastery of St Jiří at Hradčany. These appointments were the mostl prestigious – and lucrative, in Prague and Brixi held them until his death from tuberculosis twelve years later. His output was enormous more than 500 published pieces most of them in the Neapolitan Style. If you track down his compositions you'll hear the influence of Alessandro Scarlatti, Francesco Feo and Francesco Durante on the one hand with a light spicing from the Viennese Italian school of Mancini, Reuter and Bonno. I like his music and understand why it was enormously popular with his contemporaries yes there's the Italian influence so beloved of the Eastern European aristocracy and bourgeoisie but far more important is that Brixi was a genuinely talented composer with his own, delightfully cheerful, musical voice. His melodic writing is crisp and fresh vigorous with a vivacity of  rhythm and clarity of instrumentation that marks him out from his contemporaries. His fame and his music spread throughout Bohemia and Moravia, in particular but he was also very popular in Austria, Bavaria and Silesia. He influenced musical tastes in those lands in general and profoundly altered musical taste in Bohemia where his music paved the way for Mozart. There can be no doubt that Brixi's influence was a considerable factor in Mozart's favourable reception in 1780s Prague. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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George Frideric Handel (1685-1759): How Beautiful Are The Feet — Andrew Swait, Treble

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December 6, 2014

My readers need no introduction from me to Handel's Messiah. Good musical businessman that he was he re-wrote his music whenever changing circumstances suggested the necessity. "How beautiful are the feet" is one such, the most popular version  in G minor with its lovely Siciliana accompaniment is sung by the incomparable Andrew Swait. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Gregor Aichinger (±1565 – 21 January 1628): Ave, Regina Caelorum

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December 5, 2014

Ave Regina cælorum (Hail Queen of Heaven) is a Marian antiphon, which together with its following versicles and prayers, is traditionally appointed to be said or sung during the Liturgy of the Hours. It's particularly associated  with Compline, the final canonical hour of prayer before going to sleep. It dates from at least the twelfth century and may well be older, nobody really knows. It's probably of monastic origin and as with many such pieces the identity of the text's author is unknown, some people have suggested that Herman Contractus could be the author but I've never seen anyone adduce any evidence to that effect. The basis of the suggestion seems to be "well he wrote Marian antiphons didn't he?" to which I can only reply "ummmmm well yes he did but you need to produce some sort of evidence that he wrote this one". Irrespective of who wrote it it became particularly popular during the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance as a result of the widespread devotion to Our Lady of those times. The great Marian Antiphons and such beautiful folk Christmas Carols as "Maria Durch Ein Gingwald Ging" all spring from this period and its outpouring of love and veneration for Christ's mother.

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Maurice Duruflé (1902—1986): In Paradisum

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December 4, 2014

At some point I'll have to find the time write about and post Duruflé's setting of the Requiem in its entirety,  but until I find the time to do that I'll content myself with sharing his serenely beautiful setting of In Paradisum with which he ends the Mass. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Guttur tuum sicut vinum optimum

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December 3, 2014

Thy throat is like the finest wine,
worthy for my beloved to drink
and for his lips and teeth to savour.
I to my love and he doth turn to me.

The last few of the twenty-nine motets based upon the Song of Songs such as Guttur tuum sicut vinum optimum (Thy throat is like the finest wine), have texts which are unabashedly erotic. This sensual and sexual aspect of the text was why the Church authorities insisted that they be set and sung only in Latin and not in Italian. I find myself suspecting that this attempt to stifle the love song aspect of the Song of Songs at least in part accounts for why Palestrina's settings sold like hotcakes. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Escolania de Montserrat: El Rossinyol (Washington Concert)

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December 2, 2014

El Rossinyol is a lovely old Catalan folk-song in which a bride laments her marriage to a shepherd and asks the Nightingale to send her love to her mother but not her father who married her off. It's sung below by the boys of the always superb Escolania de Montserrat. The soloist was Eduard Boadas and the concert was given at Strathmore Music Centre (Maryland - USA) on March 16th 2014 as part of the Escolania's 2014 USA tour. This video has very kindly been made available by Montserrat Gorina-Ysern. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Kala Debesīs (born 1953): Kalējs – Drakensberg Boys Choir

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December 1, 2014

Selga Mence is a Latvian composer whose songs for children are a joy (Short biography here). There's a wonderful tradition of choral music in the Baltic Republics and this song is no exception. I was delighted to see a message in my inbox telling me that one of my favourite choirs had recorded this marvellous piece. A great start to my week, I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

mfi

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Feature: Duarte Lôbo (±1565-1646): Missa Pro Defunctis a8

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November 30, 2014

On September 21st 2012 I posted two motets by Duarte Lôbo Pater Peccavi ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMKib... ) and Audivi vocem de cælo ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64cGZ... ) they're the only two of Lôbo's motets that have survived and are not only beautiful and interesting pieces of music in and of themselves but are also interesting because Lôbo wrote them as appendages to the sombre beauty that is his eight-part setting of the Mass for the dead published in 1621 in the Liber Missarum.

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Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Fantasia 3 à 3 Z.734 – Ernst Stolz

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November 29, 2014

From the always superb Ernst Stolz, Purcell's enchanting Fantasia in g minor Z.734 for viols. Amazing to think he was only 21 when he composed it. I've listened to this version repeatedly since Ernst uploaded it to his wonderful YouTube channel and really it gets better with each listening. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Bruno Coulais: Caresse sur l’Ocean – Dennis Chmelensky

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November 28, 2014

Caresse sur l’Ocean from Les Choristes sung here by the German boy soprano Dennis Chmelensky in one of the nicest cover versions of it I've ever heard. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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PCCB – Soloist Ephrem DLT – Atiché – 21st January 2014 at Boulogne Billancourt France

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November 27, 2014

The boys of the Petits Chanteurs À La Croix De Bois have made this Hebrew chant one of their own tours de force. Enjoy :-). mfi

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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Quam pulchra es, et quam decora

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November 26, 2014

How beautiful art thou, and how comely,
my dearest, in delights!
Thy stature is like to a palm tree
and thy breasts to clusters of fruit.
I said: I will go up into the palm tree
and I will take hold of the fruit thereof.
And thy breasts also shall be as the clusters of the vine;
and the odour of thy mouth like apples.

Quam pulchra es, et quam decora (How beautiful art thou, and how comely)  is one of the last of the series of twenty-nine motets written by Palestrina as a sort of vocal chamber music that could be performed by a wide variety of groups. They were fabulously popular going through no less than eleven reprints in a number of years. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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