William Byrd (±1539-1623): Alleluia. Ascendit Deus

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May 14, 2015

William Byrd captioned 150x220pxThe Feast of the Ascension which this year falls on May 14th 2015 is celebrated forty days after Easter and celebrates Christ's departure for Heaven. As a major feast of the Church it has particular texts read at various points of the Mass to reflect the liturgical theme proper to the day. Hence the term 'propers'.  Byrd who was nothing if not dedicated to his faith had set out to provide a complete set of music, Mass settings, propers, gradualia, hymns, and antiphons, that could be used by his fellow Catholics in the straitened and dangerous circumstances in which English Catholics now found themselves.

Byrd published Alleluia. Ascendit Deus in the 1607 Gradualia it takes its text from Psalm 46 in the Vulgate and is the proper for the Offertory for Ascension. It's a five-part setting, very densely written, and celebratory. Enjoy :-) 

mfi

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Franz Schubert (1797-1828): Frühlingsglaube D686 Die linden Lüfte sind erwacht

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May 14, 2015

bei dir alein This is one of Schubert's most loved and frequently performed songs. It's the only one of Schubert's songs that sets a text by the Swabian poet Ludwig Uhland and while the lyrics may not be the finest Uhland ever wrote Schubert transforms them into a thing of rare beauty. Like all songs that are full of bittersweet emotion Frühlingsglaube can, in the hands of a performer determined to milk it for all it's worth rapidly descend into maudlin sentimentality.

It's frequently performed but not always well performed and rarely as well performed as on the BIS label's enchanting recording of Schubert songs [ AmazonUK   AmazonUS   ArkivMusic ] featuring Camilla Tilling accompanied by Paul Rivinius. Tilling treats the song gently and tenderly, almost with diffidence, and the effect is wonderful.  Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Wednesday Earwig: Weather Forecast Master Singers Slideshow with subs

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May 13, 2015

In 1966 The Master Singers recorded this song as an Anglican chant.

Enjoy :-).

mfi

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William Byrd (±1539-1623): Venite

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May 12, 2015

The Venite (Psalm 95) is sung during the Anglican ritual for the celebration of Matins and has been sung as part of that ritual ever since the Church of England was founded. It's not certain when Byrd composed it but on stylistic grounds sometime in the 1580s seems the most likely. The scale and scope of the scoring are unusual for the time and would have stretched or exceeded the choral resources of most English cathedrals and universities of the time which leads me to suspect that Byrd wrote it specifically for the Chapel Royal.  Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Psalm 23 (Bay Psalm Book): American Boy Choir

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May 11, 2015

Bay Psalm 23
The Bay Psalm book is probably unknown to my readers on this side of the Atlantic, and, I suspect, to many in America, and so a little history before listening to the music is appropriate. In 1640 the Massachusetts Bay Colony published the Bay Psalm Book (it was printed by Stephen Daye in the house of the president of Harvard College) this was a remarkable event in American history in several ways. It was the first book to be published in the colonies which would make it an important event in its own right. Even more important however is that it was the first book to be entirely written in the colonies and thus represents an important parting of the ways between America and Britain.  "Thirty pious and learned Ministers" amongst them Richard Mather, John Eliot, Thomas Weld, and John Cotton translated the psalms contained in the metrical Psalter. The translations can seem a bit rough, a bit unpolished, and so far as I know none of them are in widespread use today (although many of the tunes to which the translations were sung have survived). In its time it was widely read and used and was used by the Puritan congregations of New England. They used it in preference to the Anglican psalter precisely because it was theirs it was written by their fellow Puritans for them it was an important statement of their independence and of their growing self-confidence. It went through about forty reprintings at first and in all has been reprinted more than a hundred times. The rendition of Psalm 23 which you can hear below the American Boychoir conducted by Fernando Malvar-Ruiz was given during the  during the 2014 American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Eastern Division Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. I've included the text below the video. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Feature: Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Missa Veni Sponsa Christi

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May 10, 2015

Palestrina's four-part setting of the Mass Missa Veni sponsa Christi, for 4 voices was published in 1599 in Venice in the Missarum liber nonus. It is, as the name would lead you to expect, based upon a setting of Veni sponsa Christi which was the Magnificat antiphon prescribed to be sung at Second Vespers from the Common of Virgins. Palestrina composed a really rather beautiful four-part (SATB) motet for this antiphon in which he published in 'Motecta festorum totius anni cum communi sanctorum quaternis vocibus' in 1563. I  wrote about this motet in October 2013, and you'll get far more enjoyment from this Mass if you first listen to the motet and read about it which you can do on the following posting on my site: http://saturdaychorale.com/2013/10/22/giovanni-pierluigi-da-palestrina-1525-1594-veni-sponsa-chisti-antiphon-and-motet/.

It's not surprising that Palestrina composed a setting of this motet, if you take a look at the page for Veni Sponsa Christi on CPDL you'll see that they've listed a lot of settings of it  both from composers who pre-date him and his contemporaries (see: http://www3.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Veni_sponsa_Christi ).  Nor is  surprising that Palestrina used his motet as the basis for a Mass setting. Marian Motets and Marian Masses were in heavy demand in counter-reformation Italy and Palestrina's contemporaries particularly admired his skill as a composer of beautiful motets. Palestrina wound up a wealthy man and a large part of the reason for that is that he gave his audience what he knew they wanted. Like the motet it's a very dense piece of writing into which Palestrina crams as much musical material as he possibly can while retaining the graciousness and poise for which his music is famous. For the purposes of this video I've included the antiphon at the start of the video so that you can hear the cantus firmus, the text and translation are below. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856): The Angels’ Goodnight

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May 9, 2015

Schumann's four-part setting of Friedrich Rückert's poem was first published in 1846. It's known and loved in the anglophone world in translation as The Angels' Goodnight sung here by the Tewkesbury Abbey School Choir directed by Benjamin Nicholas. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Pierre Villette (1926–98): Hymne à la Vierge – Maîtrise de l’Académie Vocale de Paris

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May 8, 2015

If you were to draw up a family tree of conservative French composers you'd find Fauré, Debussy, Poulenc, Duruflé, Messiaen, and Pierre Villette. Villette didn't compose much choral music but what there is is both beautiful and accessible.  He's neglected by the French musical establishment perhaps because he spent his life in the provinces rather than Paris. Hymne à la Vierge (Hymn to the Virgin) which he composed in 1954 is a SSAATTBB setting of a poem by  Roland Bouhéret and is one of a set of seven motets. It reminds me in some ways of Poulenc but has a charm all of its own. It's performed below by the Maîtrise de l'Académie Vocale de Paris. Enjoy :-).

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Johann Hermann Schein (1586 – 1630): Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam

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May 7, 2015

Thomaskirche Leipzig Ceiling Detail

Together with Schütz and Scheidt both of whom were friends of his, Schein introduced the Italian style to German music and successfully grafted it onto Lutheran church music. Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam (Christ our Lord to Jordan came) which Schein composed for the Feast of the Nativity of St. John and published in Opella Nova in  1618 is a setting of a text by Martin Luther. It's a very Italianate and cleverly written piece of music which makes use of  colourful word painting and in which each phrase is first stated and then decorated using the phrase itself in diminuendo – a difficult trick to pull off successfully but Schein manages it very well indeed. The dialogue between the two voices is very reminiscent of Monteverdi. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Stella quam viderant Magi – Choir of Trinity College Cambridge

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May 6, 2015

The Epiphany text Stella quam viderant Magi  was frequently set by Sixteenth century composers at least twenty of whom including Josquin Desprez and Palestrina set it. Palestrina's setting is sung here by the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge directed by Stephen Darlington during Choral Evensong from Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, 14th January 2015. I've put the text and translation below the video. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Miguel López (1669 – 1723): Salve Regina – Escolania de Montserrat

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May 5, 2015

Miguel López was born in Villarroya de la Sierra, Aragon in 1669 and entered the Escolanía de Montserrat as a choirboy  aged nine. He became a Benedictine novice in 1684 and a full member of the order in 1686. The Benedictines sent him to their monastery of S Martín, Madrid for seven years between 1689 and 1696 where he combined his duties as monastery organist with studying theology at Salamanca. His confrères must have been impressed by his musical skills because he was twice made choirmaster at Montserrat first for six years between 1699 and 1705 and then again for a three year period between  1715 and 1718. On 25 February 1722 he was appointed manager of the house at Alcañiz belonging to Montserrat but died within months of the appointment. He wrote devotional villancicos for church festivals that ranged from solos with continuo to larger combinations as well as liturgical pieces which tend to be somewhat polychoral compositions in which the instrumental piece(s) are one choir amongst many. His setting of the Salve which you can hear below is quite typical of his music it's pleasant and undramatic if somewhat austere in style relying on alternating points of imitation and antiphonal effects to provide musical interest and forward motion. The performance below by the always superb Escolania de Montserrat was given at a conventual Mass on April 1st 2012. enjoy :-).

mfi

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Orlande de Lassus (±1530-1594): Magnificat tertii toni

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May 4, 2015

Orlande de Lassus 180x200 This is the earlier of two settings of the Magnificat that de Lassus is known to have composed, he composed it early in the 1560s and published it in Nuremberg in 1567 . It's an alternatim setting which combines the third mode plainchant Magnificat with four-part polyphonic settings of the verses which themselves are based on the chant. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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