BBC Documentary: David Starkey’s MUSIC & MONARCHY 3. Great British Music

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January 18, 2015

Dr David Starkey's exploration of how the monarchy shaped Britain's music reaches the 18th century, when Great Britain became a dominant military and economic power, and the century which brought us patriotic classics such as God Save the King - the world's first national anthem - and Rule Britannia. Yet this was a time when the monarchy had never been more fragile, having lost much of its political and religious power and imported its ruling house from abroad. The supreme irony was that it was a musician from Germany, George Frideric Handel, who gave Great Britain and its new royal dynasty its distinctive musical voice.

Featuring specially recorded performances from Westminster Abbey Choir and a full baroque orchestra of Handel's Hallejulah Chorus and Zadok The Priest. Plus the Academy of Ancient Music performs extracts from Handel's operas and other works. Soloists joining the performances include Elin Manahan Thomas, singing 'Eternal Source of Light Divine' which was written for Queen Anne's birthday in 1714 and was performed by Elin to a global audience at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Also featuring what is believed to be the first public performance for 300 years of the music written for the Act of Union between England and Scotland in 1707 - sung by the choir of St Paul's Cathedral just as it was back then.
David also discovers the true stories behind Handel's Water Music, written to accompany George I on a trip along the Thames, as well as his Music for Royal Fireworks, full of military instruments at the insistence of the soldier-king George II. He also visits the country estate of Cliveden in Buckinghamshire, where Thomas Arne's Rule Britannia was first performed as an act of defiance by an heir to the throne.

Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Balduin Hoyou (±1547–1594): Aus Tiefer Not

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January 17, 2015

Hoyou was a Flemish born composer who spent most of his career in Germany, he was born in Liège either in 1547 or in 1548. I don't know where he got his first musical training – presumably in Liège, by 1563 he had been a choirboy for several years in the  Württemberg Hofkapelle at Stuttgart. His voice broke in that when he would have been fifteen and for many choristers that would have been the end of their careers.  But Hoyoul must have been well thought of and showed considerable musical potential because the then Kapellmeister Philipp Weber, persuaded the Duke to pay for him to study with de Lassus at Munich in 1564–5. He returned to Wurtemburg aged seventeen and immediately took up a post that combined the duties of singing as alto and as a composer. The Duke must have been pleased with his efforts because there are numerous records of payments to him and in 1589 following the death of Ludwig Daser appointed him as Kapellmeister. Of all his works his chorale based German motets are perhaps the best known, they're lively and fresh workings of the Chorales with very full harmonics and a rich contrapuntal style as you can hear below in his SATTB setting of Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir (Psalm 130). Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Pelham Humfrey (±1648 —1 674): By the waters of Babylon

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January 16, 2015

Pelham Humfrey started his career as one of the 'forwardest & brightest' boys recruited for the Chapel Royal by  Henry Cooke who had been ordered by Charles II to restore English Church Music to its former glory. He was probably a Londoner but nobody really knows all that much about his origins. What we do know is that 'forward and bright' really only begins to describe his musical talent who already had written several anthems by the time his voice broke aged sixteen. Aged sixteen he was sent to Paris on full pay for two years to study music and on his return proved himself to be a master musician and composer who succeeded to the post of royal choirmaster when Cooke died in 1672. Sadly he only outlived his old master by two years but in that two years he produced some remarkably fine music including By the waters of Babylon. It's a symphony anthem – one of fourteen that he composed, and clearly demonstrates his skill at crafting musical structures in in which the vocal and instrumental components are organically linked, rather than just tacked together which had been the norm up to then. It's a somewhat unusual symphony anthem in that it opens with a short prelude rather than the full symphony which appears as a dance measure towards the end. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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William Byrd (±1539-1623): Peccantem me quotidie

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January 15, 2015

Byrd's five-part (SATTB) setting of the seventh respond at the matins for the dead is a surprisingly old-fashioned piece of writing that harkens back to Fayrfax, Cornysh, and Ludford. It's a little surprising that Byrd selected such an old-fashioned style as he along with his contemporaries was busy exploring the possibilities offered by the mean vocal range. Old-fashioned but nevertheless very beautiful and a glorious example of what Byrd could do when he put his mind to it. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Jesu salvator saeculi

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January 14, 2015

Tallis' setting of the compline hymn Jesu salvator saeculi (Jesus, saviour of the age) is an alternim setting that alternates the chant and composed music retaining the cantus firmus in the top part. Under Sarum usage it would have been sung between low Sunday and Ascension it's typical of the new style of hymnody pioneered by Tallis and his contemporaries eschewing the massive polyphonic 'wall of sound' of earlier generations in favour of an elegant simplicity and textual clarity.  Enjoy :-).

mfi

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FAURÉ "Cantique de Jean Racine" – Petits Chanteurs de Sainte-Croix-de-Neuilly

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January 13, 2015

Fauré composed his Cantique de Jean Racine (Op. 11) when he was nineteen years old. It helped make his name and garnered him the the first prize when he graduated from the École Niedermeyer de Paris. It was first performed August 4, 1866, with accompaniment of strings and organ but it was nearly twenty years before it was first published it's been a firm favourite with French choirs for generations this performance of it was given by the Petits Chanteurs de Sainte-Croix-de-Neuilly under their conductor François Polgar on June 25th 2014 at a concert given in Eglise Sainte-Croix de Ménilmontant (Paris). Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Giovanni Rovetta (1596-1668): Beatus Vir

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January 12, 2015

'For the composition of the music and as master of the chapel, from among so many who could be found in Venice, Signor Rueti was chosen, and expressly ordered to assemble as many singers and instrumentalists as could be found in
the city, in order to satisfy the magnificent projects of His Excellency, who desired the choicest and most solemn music that could be found.'

When Seigneur Hamelot de la Houssaye the French Ambassador to Venice in 1638 wanted to commission music to celebrate the birth of the future Louis XIV naturally only the best would do and the best was 'Signor Rueti'  (Giovanni Rovetta). At that time Rovetta was held in such esteem by his contemporaries that he had been appointed twelve years previously as vice maestro di cappella at San Marco. Rovetta started his career as a chorister and worked his way up through the ranks until he was appointed as Maestro Claudio Monteverdi's principal deputy at the remarkably young age of thirty. (He succeeded Monteverdi as Maestro in 1644 a position he retained until his death). For Rovetta the Ambassador's commission must have seemed like manna from Heaven as it gave him the opportunity of publishing a collection of his music – an important step in his careeer that he had not yet taken. This was published in 1639 and included inter alia Rovetta's Messa, e salmi concertati, op.4, the 'solennissima Messa' of 1638, twelve vesper psalms and the Magnificat you can hear below. It's definitely a 'magnificent project' being in eight parts and scored for soloists, chorus and instruments, I'm sure the ambassador was more than content with this wonderful example of the concertato style Vespers Psalm, with its alternation of solos, duets, choral tutti and instrumental ritornellos. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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BBC Documentary: David Starkey’s MUSIC & MONARCHY 2. Revolutions

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January 11, 2015

Dr David Starkey's exploration of how the monarchy shaped Britain's music reaches the 17th century, when religious conflict threatened not only the lives of musicians and monarchs, but the future of the monarchy and the glorious tradition of British music itself. And yet, in the midst of this upheaval, royalty presided over a series of musical breakthroughs - from the first chamber concerts and proto-operas, to the triumphant debut of the baroque orchestra.

Westminster Abbey choir sing some of the earliest surviving music to be heard at British coronations; the Band of the Life Guards play pieces which Charles I used in battle, which marched James II out of his kingdom, and which mourned Mary II; and the Academy of Ancient Music perform some of the glorious works of arguably the greatest English composer - Henry Purcell. Also featured are works by Orlando Gibbons, Thomas Tomkins and the little-known William Lawes - a composer who had the potential to be truly great, had he not died fighting for the king in the English Civil War.

David also visits the Whitehall Banqueting House, home of the extravagant form which was the forerunner of opera in England - the court masque. And he explores how music was fought over by Puritans and Royalists - with the church organ proving a surprisingly bitter source of conflict.

Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Epiphany Cantata: Johann Philipp Krieger (1649-1725) – O Jesu, du mein Leben

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January 10, 2015

Mantegna adoration

Johann Philipp Krieger (1649-1725) was one of the outstanding German composers of his time he wrote both secular and religious music particularly church cantatas, of which he wrote over 2000 nearly all of which alas are now lost. He wound up as the music master at the court at Weissenfels which under his direction rapidly became known as a centre of excellence of German music. He started his musical career as a child studying under first under Johann Drechsel and then Gabriel Schütz. Aged 14 he went to Copenhagen studying organ and composition under Johannes Schröder who at the time was royal Danish organist he also studied composition under Kaspar Förster. He was offered a post at Christiania (Oslo) but turned it down preferring instead to take up a post at Nuremburg. He was poached from there by the Margrave Christian Ernst and worked at Bayreuth until the Margrave left in 1673 to join the war against France. As there is little call for organists on battlefields Krieger travelled to Italy and studied there for two years on full pay. On his return to Austria he played for the Emperor Leopold I in Vienna who was so impressed that he ennobled him and all his siblings. Krieger then travelled to the court at Halle to take up a post as Kapellmeister a position he held for the rest of his life. He was a prolific composer both of secular and religious music and, as mentioned above, composed over 2000 cantatas. Only 76 of these survive which is a pity because it was Krieger who had the idea of writing cantatas in the Italian style using recitatives and arias, to which biblical verses and chorale stanzas were later added. In short Krieger was the father of the "New Cantata". Buxtehude and Pachelbel both owe him a considerable musical debt and through Buxtehude so does Bach. O Jesu, du mein Leben which was written for Epiphany is very typical of Krieger's cantatas with its clear melodic structure and simple harmonies and rhythms it's also very Germanic in its use of violin and bass viol instrumental passages to divide the composition into several parts. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Robert White (±1538-1574): Exaudiat te Dominus

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January 9, 2015

This is a strange but very lovely piece of music. White was born in London sometime around 1538 he attended Trinity College, Cambridge, in the 1550s graduating with a Mus.B. degree in 1560. He married Tye's daughter and succeeded his father-in-law as Master of the Choristers at Ely Cathedral in 1562. Sometime 1n 1567 he moved to Chester Cathedral, and then three years later he moved to the far more prestigious Westminster Abbey he died of plague in 1574. His Psalm motet Exaudiat te Dominus takes its text from Psalm 19(20) it's a prayer that the monarch triumph over his (her) enemies and in style White's setting is very old-fashioned, in fact it's downright archaic. The closest pieces of music to it both in structure and in terms of the sound palette used are votive antiphons such as Vox Patris caelestis, in other words White is using a style that was itself consciously archaic. It's a puzzle because on the basis that he was very young it's highly unlikely that White composed Exaudiat te Dominus during Queen Mary's reign which means he must have composed it during Elizabeth's reign but for what occasion and for which group of singers? Whoever they were they must have been top class singers because the range required for White's Psalm motets is extreme and the writing sometimes a bit angular. I suspect that he wrote it either for the choir at Westminster or for the Chapel Royal. Of the two I think the Chapel Royal is the more likely both because of the nature of the text and because Elizabeth is known to have enjoyed Latin religious music. He starts the Psalm with a relatively sparse structure (in fact he does this for all his Psalm motets) which progresses into full-force polyphony that builds into an irresistible musical force. You can hear this particularly at the end (Domine, salvum fac regem … ) where what seems to be a standard divided verse section rapidly develops into a full-throated seven-part structure that nevertheless retains the gimell in the inner parts. The effect is quite spectacular – particularly in the triumphant final cadence. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Stephen Paulus: Loving-Kindness – Taipei Male Choir

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January 8, 2015

The American composer Stephen Paulus was born in 1949 and studied composition at the University of Minnesota with Paul Fetler and Dominick Argento, his music is often influenced by romanticism and this neo-romanticism can be heard very plainly in Loving-Kindness sung hear by the always excellent - Taipei Male Choir conducted by guest conductor Craig Hella Johnson in a concert given at the National Concert Hall, Taipei, Taiwan in March 2013. enjoy .-).

mfi

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Wednesday Earwig: Shosholoza – World Choir Games 2014, Closing Ceremony

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January 7, 2015

The first earwig of  the year – enjoy :-)

mfi

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