Sebastián de Vivanco (1551-1622): O Rex gloriae

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September 19, 2014

This setting of O Rex gloriae by Vivanco would have been sung as the Antiphon to the Magnificat for Second Vespers at Ascension. It's a double-choir motet and was published in  1610 in Salamanca as part of a collection of his motets. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Nisi Dominus RV803

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September 18, 2014

This recently rediscovered work was described by Michael Talbot in his notes to it as Vivaldi's 'swan song' for the Pietà. It's glorious and as Talbot's description of it certainly can't be bettered by me I reproduce it below. So without further ado enjoy :-).

mfi

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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Caput eius aurum optimum

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September 17, 2014

Caput eius aurum optimum (His head is as the finest gold) is the twentieth in the series of motets written to be sung in devotional gatherings of the kind popular in Italy as a result of the religious revival spearheaded by St. Phlip Neri in Rome in the 1560s and 1570s.  Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Edvard Grieg (1843-1907): Cradle Song

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September 16, 2014

Grieg's output and range as a song-writer are simply amazing whether it's the vocalisation of I Folketone, his hymns, or the gentle charm of this lullaby which he set from a text by Ibsen just after the birth of his daughter Alexandra. His music captures the mood of the poem you hear the love and joy in every note. Sadly Alexandra died very shortly after this song was written.

mfi

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Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Stript of their green our groves appear

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September 15, 2014

Purcell Closterman Small

This delightful song consists of a text by Peter Anthony Motteux that was set by Purcell for the first issue of Motteux's Gentleman’s Journal  in 1692. Motteux was clearly pleased with the result and said as much adding that he hoped to have it performed before the Queen. I don't know Whether that hope was brought to fruition or not but I stand in awe of Purcell's achievement at setting the text. It must have been a beast to write the music for – even for a musical genius like Purcell.  Take a look at the first few stanzas and you'll see what I mean. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Sunday Concert: Maria Callas Opera Arias – YouTube

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September 14, 2014

If you've ever wondered what all the fuss was about now's your chance to find out. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Drakensberg Boys Choir – Mozart Requiem – YouTube

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September 13, 2014

I. Introitus: Requiem Aeternam
II. Kyrie eleison

What makes the Drakensberg Boys Choir so unique is the fact that they use boy tenors and bass as opposed to adult males and they sound incredible in this piece.

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William Byrd (±1539-1623): Plorans Plorabit

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September 12, 2014

William Byrd captioned 150x220pxByrd's five part (SAATB) setting of verses seventeen and eighteen from Jeremiah 13 was published in the 1605 Gradualia. It's a bit unusual in that unlike most of the content of the 1605 gradualia  it's not a liturgical motet. Further more its text was manifestly chosen as a reference to  the situation of the English Catholic community and their persecution at the hands of an increasingly hostile protestant state. In fact in choosing these particular verses Byrd was going quite a bit further than he'd gone before in warning the monarch and his queen (James I and Anne of Denmark) that their continuing to hold the Lord's flock captive would lead to divine retribution unless they humbled themselves :

Plorans plorabit, et deducet oculus meus lacrimas, quia captus est grex Domini. Dic regi et
dominatrici: Humiliamini, sedete, quoniam descendit de capite vestro corona gloriae vestrae.

Mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock is carried away
captive. Say unto the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves, sit down: for your
principalities shall come down, even the crown of your glory.

Jeremiah 13, vv. 17–18

The sense of grief throughout this lament for the condition of his fellow Catholics is palpable it's a flood of grief and anger that sweeps all before it. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Laudate pueri RV600

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September 11, 2014

Vespers was a very important service which accounts for the many settings of the Psalms which were such an important component in its structure.  This particular setting by Vivaldi of Psalm 112  Laudate Pueri is a fairly early work. it's in C minor and is a surprisingly dark-toned piece. It's a lovely multi-movement work for soloist – who would originally have been one of the Pietà's famous orphan musicians. It's not my favourite amongst Vivaldi's religious pieces or even of his settings of this Psalm. I'm not quite sure why, it's not that his highly elaborated setting doesn't work because it does. But somehow it feels quite untidy almost as though Vivaldi was still experimenting to find what worked and what didn't don't let that put you off it is as I say a lovely piece. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Adiuro vos, filiae Hierusalem

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September 10, 2014

This is the nineteenth in the series of twenty-nine motets based upon The Song of Songs intended to be sung on non-liturgical devotional occasions. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Dieterich Buxtehude (±1637-1707): Cantate Domino

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September 9, 2014

Buxtehude Captioned 150x150 Dieterich Buxtehude's setting of the first four verses from Psalm 95 in the Vulgate (Psalm 96 in protestant bilbles) is a motet scored for SSB or SAB with accompaniment – Viola Da Gamba and organ. It's a lovely piece that has strong Italianate influences. Close your eyes and you could easily imagine it to be from Monteverdi's pen. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Sebastián de Vivanco (±1550-1622): Versa est in luctum

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September 8, 2014

Sebastián de Vivanco was one of the leading Spanish composers of his time. He was born in Avila –  the same town as de Victoria, and as you can see from his birth and death dates was de Victoria's contemporary. Stevenson speculates that he studied under the same masters as de Victoria which seems to me to be entirely probable. His career was that of a musical star maestro de capilla at Lérida Cathedral,  maestro de capilla at Segovia Cathedral, maestro de capilla at Avila Cathedral, maestro de capilla at Salamanca Cathedral, Professor of Music at Salamanca University. Nor did his fame die with him his music – including this setting of Versa est in luctum, was still a part of the repertoire more than a century after his death.

Versa est in luctum the text of which is taken from the Book of Job Chapter 30 Verse 31 is a motet intended to be sung at the end of a Missa pro Defunctis, a Requiem mass. Why was such a motet necessary particularly as the text of Versa est in luctum was not part of the traditional Spanish liturgy?

The answer lies in Spanish liturgical practices.  In de Vivanco's time Spanish usage was that a sermon was normally preached before the last rites were administered to the deceased and that in between these two events which were called 'The Oration' and 'The Absolution' a motet was sung. The purpose of such music, of all religious music, was not only Ad Majoram Dei Gloriam but also to heighten and intensify the emotions being felt by the congregation. The text of Versa est in luctum is certainly entirely suited to this purpose and even a moderately well educated Spaniard of the time would have found its references to musical mourning and weeping together with its pleas to God for mercy not only appropriate but a stimulus to reflection. Vivanco's meditative and plangent setting matches the text and its purpose perfectly  it's also somewhat unusual from a composer more often thought of in connection with his villancicos.

mfi

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