William Cornysh The Elder (d. 1502): Ave Maria, Mater Dei

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April 14, 2015

It used to be thought that this beautiful Marian motet was by William Cornysh the younger but following some research by David Skinner published in 1997 it's now thought to be by his father William Cornysh the elder. 1. By Cornysh the elder's standards it's a relatively uncomplicated and undemanding piece. There isn't the vast sweep or somewhat complex ornamentation of his Stabat Mater or Salve instead there's an appealingly simple fairly linear setting with a clear path of progression scored for men's voices.

mfi

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William Byrd (±1539-1623): Diliges Dominum

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April 13, 2015

Diliges Dominum was published in 1575 in Cantiones Sacræ it's scored for eight voices (trebles, altos, tenors, basses) but each voice takes only one part. It's a technically demanding piece of music one voice sings the piece from start to finish while the other sings reversed – what is called a "crab" canon.  The result is interesting and well worth listening to if somewhat dry.
mfi

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Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736): Messa di S. Emidio (Missa Romana) — Concerto Italiano, Rinaldo Alessandrini

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April 12, 2015

SanLorenzoinLucina

There are quite a few Masses attributed to Pergolesi but this is one of only two that are known to be by him. It's a Missa brevis consisting of Kyrie and a Gloria, don't let that fact mislead you at nearly forty minutes it's a fairly hefty piece of music. It was first performed in 1732 at a service of dedication in honour of St. Emygdius (San Emidio) who was being  adopted as one Naples' patron saints. He subsequently beefed it up with the addition of further choirs and in  1734 he had the honour of being brought to Rome specifically to hear it being sung at San Lorenzo in Lucina. It starts very dramatically with voices building to a climax over the accompaniment – an effect he repeats in the Gloria. It's a lively piece of music, very operatic, with many shifts in in texture and tone to maintain interest. it's performed below by the Concerto Italiano conducted by  Rinaldo Alessandrini. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924): When Mary Thro’ the Garden Went

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April 11, 2015

Standford Sketch 150x200 Stanford's wonderful four-part (SATB) motet  'When Mary Thro' the Garden Went' sets a text by Mary E. Coleridge. When I was planning this week's postings I was confident there'd be lots of good live performances of it on YouTube, "that'll larn me" to coin a phrase. There are a few performances of it on YouTube but the only one that I actually liked is the live performance that you can hear below given by Temple University Recital Choir. I hope you'll enjoy hearing it as much as I did.  The text to Coleridge's poem is below the video. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Peter Philips (1560-1628): Regina Caeli laetare

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April 10, 2015

The Regina Caeli is one of four Marian antiphons traditionally said or sung after compline. It is said throughout Eastertide –  the fifty day period from Easter Sunday to Pentecost, and during that period can be said in place of the Angelus. Philips'  setting while it is for two choirs is more Roman than Venetian in its style it was a moderately conservative piece for its time eschewing the extremes of dissonance and chromaticism that were so popular amongst the Italian avant garde. Instead Philips made use of highly coloured and expressive harmonies and confined his use of contrapuntal imitation to the antiphon's opening bars. Philips as a loyal Catholic who had fled his native England in order to freely practice his faith was determined that his music would uphold and glorify the teachings of the Church particularly the one which held that any sung texts should be clearly discernible. I think he succeeded very well the text being sung is clear and is clearly illustrated, so despite the various compositional tricks that he employed such as contrasts between long and short notes and the passing of phrases from one side to the other, the congregation could easily follow and absorb the text and its musical illustration. It's a joyous piece sung at a joyful time the effect on his listeners isn't recorded but it have been almost like listening to a madrigal. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Nicolaus Bruhns (1665-1697): Erstanden ist der heilige Christ

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April 9, 2015

stadkirchehusum

Bruhns was a member of one of those musical dynasties so common in the Baroque era. His grandfather was a lutenist at the ducal court at Gottorf and to the town council of Lübeck. His three sons Friedrich Nicolaus, Paul and Peter all followed their father into the profession of music. Paul the middle son studied under Tunder and secured a position as organist in Schwabstedt he had two sons Nicolaus and Georg. Both were musically very talented and were sent by their father to live and study at Lübeck under their uncle Peter as teenagers. Nicolaus also studied under Buxtehude who evidently regarded him with some affection and who wrote a glowing reference for him when he applied for a job as a composer and virtuoso violinist in Copenhagen. He remained at Copenhagen for a few years and imbibed Italianate music style from the Italians working there. In March 1689 he was unanimously appointed to the position of organist to Husum Stadtkirche  and was promptly the subject of attempt to woo him away from that post to Kiel. The Husum authorities were determined to hang on to him however which they did by voting him a generous salary increase. He remained at Husum until his death at the age of thirty two when was succeeded by his brother Georg.  So far as I know only twelve of his vocal works have survived but his influence was out of all proportion to the scant number of his works that have survived. His Italian solo cantatas brought the form to previously unscaled heights and his three sacred madrigal cantatas, (Hemmt eure Trähnenfluht, Muss nicht der Mensch and O werter heilger Geist) are thought by some to be a direct link between mid-Baroque German music and that of Bach. His chorale concerto Erstanden ist der heilige Christ is the only such in his surviving output but is typical of Bruhns' work in that even though he makes use of a popular Lutheran hymn he makes no use whatsoever of the chorale. It's a cheerful piece with some lovely harmonies and counterpoint in which you can hear Buxtehude's teaching both in the sung and the instrumental parts. Enjoy :).

mfi

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Wednesday Earwig: Simon and Garfunkel Medley – Naturally 7

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April 8, 2015

N7 perform a staple in their repertoire; The Simon & Garfunkel Medley (Sounds of Silence/Scarborough Fair/April Come She Will).

Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Alonso Lobo (1555-1617): O quam suavis est, Domine

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April 7, 2015

During his lifetime Alonso Lobo was respected as the equal of  Tomás Luis de Victoria his music was very widespread being found in collections all over Catholic Christendom from the Sistine Chapel to the New World. He published his six-part motet O quam suavis est, Domine in 1607.  Its text is the antiphon for the Feast of Corpus Christi and consists of through-composed polyphony in which each of the six voices can clearly be heard particularly towards the end when each voice climbs gently through its fellows. The effect is one of sweetness and warmth almost madrigalian in its impact. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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William Byrd (±1539-1623): Resurrexi

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April 6, 2015

Byrd's five- part motet (AATTB) Resurrexi (I arose) sets the text of the  Introit of the Mass for Easter Sunday. The verses are from Psalm 38 followed by a Gloria. Like most of his liturgical music it's a terse setting with the Psalm text lasting in the region of two and a half minutes and with forces suitable to the circumstances in which Elizabethan English Catholics now found themselves. The mood as you might expect for music for Easter Sunday is one of intense happiness and rejoicing. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Easter Greetings 2015 – Postquam factus homo

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April 5, 2015

I wish you all a happy and holy Easter. - markfromireland

The troped introitus chant Postquam factus homo (Once made man) was sung at the Easter and Coronation Mass of St. Edward The Confessor in Winchester Cathedral  Easter Sunday 1043.

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Orlande de Lassus (±1530-1594): Sepul­to Domino Teneb­rae Re­spon­so­ry For Holy Satur­day

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April 4, 2015

The text of Sepul­to Domino the ninth Teneb­rae Re­spon­so­ry For Holy Satur­day comes from the Gospel According to St. Matthew which recounts how following Jesus' death and burial the chief priests went to Pilate to demand that the tomb be sealed and guarded. Lassus' setting contrasts homophony with two-part contrapuntalism to provide musical interest and forward motion.

mfi

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Arvo Pärt (b1935): Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem

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April 3, 2015

When we think of the Passion settings we tend to think of Bach's settings of the St. Matthew and St. John Passions but in fact composers both before and after Bach have set the Passion although none have had the impact on the modern mind of Bach's masterpieces. Other than the occasional devotee of choral music who today remembers William Byrd's Passion? Or those of Telemann? For a while the genre fell  out of usage but happily during the latter part of the twentieth century and continuing into our own the Passion has seen a resurgence of interest amongst modern composers Penderecki , MacMillan, Golijov and Dun have all produced notable Passions as has Arvo Pärt whose Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem is the subject of this posting.

Pärt composed it in 1982 and takes as his text the Passion narrative of the Gospel of St. John. In many ways it's a very traditional work scored for soloists choir and organ. The bass sings Jesus and the tenor Pilate both to organ accompaniment. The Evangelist is  sung by a double quartet of singers (SATB) and instruments (violin, oboe, cello, bassoon) while the crowd is sung by the choir.  Structurally it's very straightforward it begins with a chordal introduction (Exordio) followed by an unadorned setting of the Passion gospel according to St. John which concludes with the death of Christ followed by a Conclusio which like the opening Exordio is given by organ and choir but which unlike the Exordio and the rest of the work in which A minor predominates is in D major.

I said above that it's a very traditional work it's far closer to a chant than to a setting by Bach or even Byrd's setting but in another it's sense it's very modern in that there's very little overt emotionality or even spirituality to the music itself. Pärt relies instead on his famous 'tintinnabuli'  style of writing coupled with rigorous organisation of the musical material to create a sense of inevitability to the drama of the Passion being recounted and enacted before us it's far closer in atmosphere to a chant setting or to Byrd's setting than to one of the grand Baroque settings to which we are accustomed and this "shock of the new" coupled with Pärt's determination to let the text speak for itself creates a powerful and moving piece of music.

mfi

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