J. S. Bach (1685–1750): Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu Dir BWV 246/40a (De profundis)

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April 12, 2014

Of the five passions mentioned by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Johann Friedrich Agricola in Johann Sebastian Bach’s obituary notice of 1754 only two have survived the one based on the Gospel According to St. John and the one based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew. There was also a passion based on the Gospel According to St. Mark but only the text of that particular passion has come down to us. So what of the other two? They seem to have vanished without trace but an important point to remember is that the passions Bach presented in Leipzig weren't necessarily always composed by him. He also presented the works of other composers such Reinhard Keiser it's entirely possible that the St. Luke Passion that he presented to the congregation in 1730 and then in 1745 was another composer's work. We also know that the St. Luke Passion published in the 1895  edition of Bach's complete works and listed as BWV 246 is very unlikely to have been composed by Bach. In 1971 writing in the Bach-Jahrbuch the late Yoshitake Kobayashi wrote about an autograph copy by Bach in which he had taken the two-voice setting sung by Peter in the St. Luke passion to the words of the sixth verse of the chorale and refashioned the chorale melody to make it conform to the expanded form in use in his parish. This expansion is the basis of the expanded this chorale setting  you can hear below scored for tenor and five strings, including two violas. A curiosity? Certainly, but one that will amply repay the very small amount of time it takes to listen to.

markfromireland

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Nicolas Gombert (±1495-c1560): Aspice Domine

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April 11, 2014

This is a strange and utterly devastating piece of music. It's related to one of the most infamous acts of the Renaissance – the sacking of Rome in 1527 by the troops of the Emperor Charles V. Gombert portrays the devastation wreaked upon Rome using dissonance in the first part of the piece while in the second he uses harmony to to depict God setting the world to right by encircling the city with a protecting wall.

markfromireland

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Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Domine ad adiuvandum RV593

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April 10, 2014

This is one of the most perfect pieces of music that Vivaldi ever wrote.  The text is half a verse from Psalm 69 (70) as a response to the versicle with which Vespers begins 'Deus in adjutorium meum intende'. It's one of a group of large-scale double choir works that Vivaldi wrote during the 1720s. It's a brilliantly antiphonal piece of music in which Vivaldi exploits the antiphonal potential of setting a double choir against the orchestra to the hilt. The second movement, an ecstatic Gloria in E minor is followed by a doxology in which the choirs unite in a fugue that have several subjects and counter-subjects. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

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Kenneth Leighton (1929-1988): What love is this of thine

2
April 8, 2014

I'm a bit ambivalent about Leighton's music. Sometimes his emphasis on lyrical melody hits the spot precisely but sometimes it leaves me cold. His setting of the Puritan clergyman Edward Taylor's poem What love is this of thine with it's calm opening and closing framing some quite dramatic singing seems to me to work very well. Enjoy :-)

markfromireland

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Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Absterge Domine

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April 7, 2014

Absterge Domine was one of Tallis' greatest hits. It's one of his 'devotional' Elizabethan Latin motets (i.e. its text is non-liturgical,) and despite the fact that it was intended for private use it appears in no less than four contrafacta as well as in the 1575 Cantiones Sacrae. It's deeply penitential with short sections some of which Tallis repeats to heighten the dramatic effect. In fact it's a very dramatic piece of music that rises and falls and uses the minor and major modes to increase the musical – and emotional, impact.

markfromireland

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5th Sunday of Lent 2014 Robert Fayrfax (1464 1521): Magnificat & Missa O bone Ihesu

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April 6, 2014

The late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries were a time of great musical innovation and achievement. One of the most important of the achievements was the development of the so-called cyclic Mass. (A cyclic Mass is a Mass setting whose components are united by a common musical theme).

Perhaps because it was in many ways a logical development of the great English tradition of the Festal Mass English composers – in particular Robert Fayrfax and Nicholas Ludford were at the forefront of this musical innovation. Missa O bone Ihesu epitomises this form of the Mass and takes it further. It is unusual amongst Fayrfax's Masses in three ways:

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Cristóbal de Morales (±1500-1553): Beati omnes qui timent Dominum

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April 5, 2014

The first time I heard this I had to check who it was by. It certainly didn't sound like something by Cristóbal de Morales to me. This piece is downright cheerful and de Morales' music is generally somewhat more … severe. It's a delightfully sunny piece who six-part structure is occasionally punctuated by bursts of something that closely resembles, but isn't quite, homophony. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

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Manuel Cardoso (1566-1650): Sitivit anima mea

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April 4, 2014

A native of Fronteira Cardoso was sent to Évora 'to study Grammar and the art of Music' under Father Cosme Delgado and Father Manuel Mendes once he had reached the age of nine. He must have greatly pleased his teachers because his career is one of rapid progression from prestigious post to prestigious post including that of music teacher to the future King João IV. His motet Sitivit anima mea (My soul thirsts) was published in 1625 in a collection of Masses. It's written in a contrapuntal style that shows Palestrina's influence mixed with a very personal – and profound, sense of harmony.

markfromireland

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Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Salve regina RV616

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April 3, 2014

vivaldi150x150vignetteIn some ways this setting of the Salve is very similar to Vivaldi’s G minor setting (RV618). Both settings are for an alto soloist, Vivaldi divided his strings between two cori and made use of woodwind obbligato instruments in each, and both have a a six-movement structure. So much for the similarities – the differences are quite as important. The most important of these differences is that the vocal part in this setting is both higher and far more flamboyant than that of the G minor setting.

It dates from sometime around 1730 and given that Vivaldi refers to  'la cantante' in the instructions he must have composed for performance in the Ospedale della Pietà although quite why he would have done so at a time when Giovanni Porta was the Pietà's  maestro di coro is something of a mystery.

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Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (±1590 – 1664): Deus in adiutorium

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April 2, 2014

Deus in adiutorium is an introductory versicles intended to be sung during various Offices. It's a cry to God for help from the faithful and De Padilla's setting, a simple plainsong intonation, is very typical of the use to which plainsong was put in Spain and its colonies at the time.

markfromireland

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Thomas Weelkes (1576–1623): Laboravi in gemitu meo

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April 1, 2014

Until fairly recently music scholars believed that this setting of the sixth verse from Psalm six was was Weelkes' only Latin motet. It's a penitential motet whose structure owes much to Thomas Morley's setting of the same text. Thus you can hear several motifs in each phrase of the text. The result is an impressively expansive piece of music that makes very telling use of dissonance. It's sung to great effect below by the Tewkesbury Abbey Schola Cantorum directed by Benjamin Nicholas.

markfromireland

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Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847): I Waited For The Lord

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March 31, 2014

Mendelssohn's 'I Waited For The Lord' performed by the Maîtrise de l'Académie Vocale de Paris, soloists Morgane Collomb & Laura Jarrell – sopranos, conductor Julien Godawatta, Iain SImcock, organist. The performance was given on June 11th 2011 at l'Église Saint Merry.

markfromireland

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