André Campra (1660-1744): Messe de Requiem – Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset

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March 8, 2015

André Campra is another one of those baroque composers whose reputation has been overshadowed by more famous compatriots – in his case Jean-Baptiste Lully, Louis Grabu, and Jean-Philippe Rameau. It's a shame because his music is really rather wonderful. He was a highly talented and skilful composer equally at home composing operas and religious music. His requiem is wonderful with its operatic touches that serve to highlight the solemn but never sombre sincerity that is entirely suitable to the occasion. It was commissioned for a memorial service for the Archbishop of Paris and is score for a "Grand Chœur" a 2–3 voice "Petit Chœur", three soloists with instrumental accompaniment from a "Symphonie".

It's a piece of music that I love whether it's the wonderful calm forward movement of the Introitus and the way the choir comes in or the "te decet" solo and the male trio that follows it or the wonderfully operatic Kyrie with its glorious soaring soprano lines.  A sense of public theatre of a momentous occasion being acted out is very present throughout the entire Mass and first makes itself particularly felt at the Gradual which feel almost like a set piece scene complete with aria and choral sections.  The Offertory with its male voice trio and choral work is a very intense but superbly balanced piece of musical writing and is the hinge. Listen to what happens at  "ne absorbeat eas Tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum" (lest the bowels of Hell engulf them, lest they fall into darkness) the whole mood changes becoming ever darker, more dramatic, and frantic until suddenly light bursts forth and conquers the darkness at  "sed signifer sanctus Michael representet" (but let Michael, thy sacred standard-bearer) you can almost see the Archangels flaming sword banishing the darkness. The mood becomes ever lighter with the Sanctus being positively dainty and I love how Capra uses the upper voices antiphonally. I also very much like how he introduces the Hosanna using the soloist and trio before allowing the choir to cut loose. He brings us down a bit at the Agnus Dei whose contemplative mood sets the scene for the peaceful and hopeful tone of the Post-Communion.  It's performed below by Les Talens Lyriques, conducted by Christophe Rousset. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Drakensberg Boys Choir: 2015 New Boys First Song

2
March 7, 2015

The new boy song of 2015 (I’M GONNA SING), as performed during the New Boys first Wednesday concert on 25 February 2015

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Antonio Caldara (1670-1736): Stabat Mater

2
March 6, 2015

Caldara by no means confined his compositional efforts to sacred vocal works but it is those works by which he is best known today. His Missa Dolorosa, Stabat Mater, Passione and Magnificat are all works that repay investigation. Whenever I think of him I cannot help but feel that despite the fact that he was an Italian composer working for the  devoutly Catholic Hapsburg court in Vienna that he strongly prefigures Bach. Like Bach his music is characterised by dense (and very difficult to sing) counterpoint, by sweeping musical architecture and some very dramatic chromaticism. His setting of the Stabat Mater is scored for two sopranos, alto, tenor, and bass whose singing he combines in various solos, duets, and cori with some very colourful instrumental writing in support of the solisti.  Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Miserere nostri, Domine

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March 5, 2015

The phrase "Miserere nostri, Domine" (Have mercy on us Lord) appears twice in the Liturgy once as  the third verse of psalm 122 and again as the second last verse of the Te Deum. The phrase itself is an alternative form of the more familiar Miserere nobis found in the ordinary of the Mass. It's one of three texts collectively referred to as "Miserere" texts, Miserere Mei, Miserere Mihi, and Miserere Nostri and all three texts are of interest to us as music lovers because during the reign of Elizabeth II a tradition developed amongst English composers of setting the 'Miserere' texts to canonic musical settings as a demonstration of their technical mastery of the compositional arts. If you like Elizabethan polyphonic music and the text being set is one of the Miserere texts you can be pretty sure you're in for a treat.

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Hernando Franco (1532 – 1585): Sanctæ Mariæ

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March 4, 2015

I've written about Franco before and as his music is relatively little known I'll repeat what I wrote about his life and work here:

Fran­co Her­nando was born in Gar­rovil­las, near Alcántara in Ex­tremadura (Estremadura), Spain some­time in 1532. Aged 10 he was en­gaged as a choir­boy by Segovia Cat­hedr­al by the time he was 14 the Cat­hedr­al was pay­ing him a han­dsome sala­ry in re­cog­ni­tion of his talent, super­ior mus­ical ab­il­ity, and to stop him from being tempted by the of­f­ers of posts from other Cat­hedr­als. Bet­ween 1542 and 1549 in Segovia he studied under maestro de capil­la Gerónimo de Es­pinar (the same de Es­pinar who later taught Vic­toria in Avila) and be­came close friends with the broth­ers Hierónimo and Lázaro del Alamo who at the time were fel­low chorist­ers. The friendship was such that he be­came a friend of the en­tire del Alamo fami­ly and their re­gular guest. He is known to have spent sever­al vaca­tions at their home and it was dur­ing one of these stays at the del Alamo home that they in­troduced him to Mat­heo de Arévalo Sedeña, a wealthy nob­leman who later be­came the pro­visor of Mexico City Cat­hedr­al. It was Arévalo Sedeño who brought Her­nando to Nueva España in 1554 (he held sever­al posts in Guatemala) and who twen­ty years later in 1574 ap­poin­ted him, Hierónimo del Alamo and his co­usin Padre Al­on­so de Trujil­lo to Mexico City Cat­hedr­al (with Fran­co re­ceiv­ing a stipend of 600 pesos).

Though Fran­co is known to have com­posed ex­ten­sive­ly re­lative­ly few of his com­posi­tions have sur­vived we can howev­er be sure that his com­posi­tions were very popular and widespread be­cause of their pre­s­ence in a very wide variety of sour­ces. In gener­al his mus­ical style is very typ­ical of early neo-Hispanic polyp­hony in its use of al­ter­nat­ing polyp­hony and plainchant (or organ) on suc­ces­sive ver­ses. As you can hear below his «Salve Re­gina» like much of his music is charac­terised by a some­what aus­tere but nevertheless very be­auti­ful polyp­hony and a spar­ing approach to both dis­sonan­ce and chromatic­ism.  (Source: Salve Regina – Hernando Franco (1532 – 1585) | Saturday Chorale)

I said at the time that his music was somewhat austere and that's true of much of his polyphony but he had a lighter and more celebratory side as this lovely setting of the Marian hymn to be sung by the congregation shows. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Edward Bairstow (1874–1946): Save us, O Lord

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March 3, 2015

Bairstow started out as a teacher but in 1893 he took up a post combining the duties of pupil and amanuensis to Frederick Bridge at Westminster Abbey. From there he progressed through various posts as organist and choirmaster until eventually taking up the post of organist in of York Minster in 1913 a post he held until his death. "Save us, O Lord" ís a setting of a Compline antiphon that dates from 1902 when Bairstow was organist of Wigan Parish Church. It's a lovely flowing piece with seamless transitions between the entries for organ and the choir and is probably his best-known and best-loved piece. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Libera ‘The Prayer’

2
March 2, 2015

From a live concert recording made at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC in the USA.

Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Victoria’s "Officium Defunctorum" | Westminster Cathedral | 2nd November 2011

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March 1, 2015

BBC Radio 3 Solemn Requiem Mass for the Faithful Departed from Westminster Cathedral, 2nd November, 2011

Tomás Luis de Victoria's Officium defunctorum of 1605

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Busking @ Drakensberg on December 03 2014

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February 28, 2015

The boys of the Drakensberg Boys' Choir giving an impromptu performance during the interval of a concert of African music given on December 3rd 2014 at their school. Every time I hear them sing I'm reminded of why their one of my all-time favourite choirs. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Stabat Mater – Plainchant {Taverner Choir}

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February 27, 2015

Taverner Choir conducted by Andrew Parrott

Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672): Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott SWV447

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February 26, 2015

Right throughout the seventeenth century German church music in general and the the cantata in particular was heavily dependent upon Italy for inspiration. At the start of the century Heinrich Schütz and Michael Praetorius were greatly impressed by Venetian polychoral music and transmitted their enthusiasm to their fellow Germans, so complete was the penetration of the Italian model of German musical consciousness that long after the Italians abandoned it polychoral music continued to be popular with German congregations and German composers continued to produce it to satisfy demand. However during the 1620s and '30s a new Italian style swept through Germany, like the polychoral style it originated at the Dresden court and like the polychoral its principal originator was Heinrich Schütz. 

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William Byrd (±1539-1623): Felix es, sacra Virgo

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February 25, 2015

Byrd published this beautiful setting of the Alleluia at Mass for the Nativity of the Virgin  in 1605 in the first volume of Gradualia. He had a very specific agenda which was to set music for "the principal Feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary" together with antiphons and hymns to her.  It's a beautifully flowing celebratory piece of music perhaps reflecting Byrd's more hopeful circumstances and his determination to provide beautiful music for his fellow recusants on a scale appropriate to their new circumstances. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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