John Blow (1649 – 1708): Venus and Adonis

Technically John Blow’s Venus and Adonis is a masque1 and indeed he himself described it as such. I suspect that he called it a masque simply because masques were a known quantity and operas were not. Leaving aside questions of nomenclature you can make a good case that with Venus and Adonis  Blow took the…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): O gloriosa Domina

O Gloriosa Domina is the second half of the hymn Quem terra, pontus, aethera composed by Venantius Fortunatus (530-609), Bishop of Poitiers. Both were sung during the Little Office of The Virgin which, as I wrote on May 16th, 2016 in my posting on Quem terra, pontus, aethera remained wildly popular with Catholics during Byrd’s…

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956): Nightingales

Of one thing we can be certain; what Hanslick called ‘the morganatic marriage of words and music’ is the least destructible of all musical elements. The marriages may be happy or unhappy, but, surely as birds must sing, so long as words exist and man is capable of feeling, there will be song. —Gerald Finzi,…

Christopher Gibbons (1615 – 1676): O Bone Jesu

A Latin-texted motet is, as you might expect, quite unusual amongst Gibbons’ compositions1. It’s very beautifully and expressively written and with an very special sound-world. The soprano hovers more than an octave over the three lower voices the effect of which is heightened by sharpened interjections. I found it a very striking piece of music…

John Taverner (±1490–1545): Te Deum

The Te Deum is a very ancient hymn that was sung at the end of Matins on Sundays and major feasts, it was also sung on special occasions of rejoicing or thanksgiving. Because of its length composers in Taverner’s time generally treated it the same way they would treat a psalm as an alternatim setting…

Thomas Weelkes (1576-1623): Rejoice in the Lord

The first time I heard Weelkes’ setting of verses 1, 2 and 4 of Psalm 33 (the text of verse 2 is slightly adapted) I was surprised at how severely plain and unadorned it was –  not in Weelkes’ normal style at all. It’s a Full anthem for four voices (SATB) and organ with some…

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956): Clear And Gentle Stream!

The fourth in Finzi’s series of seven part-songs setting poems by Robert Bridges Clear And Gentle Stream! reflects  Finzi’s intense love  for  the  English countryside and his acceptance – which he shares with Bridges of  of life’s impermanence. I love this song, its almost madrigalian nature, and the way in which Finzi treats the text…

Beata viscera (plainchant)

The plainchant Communion motet of the Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin sung here by Cappella Pratensis directed by Stratton Bull using medieval Latin pronunciation with the singers grouped around one book as they would have been during medieval times. This is about as close to hearing the chant sung they it was sung when…