Posts Tagged ‘ English Choirs ’

George Malcolm (1917-1997): Miserere mei Deus

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April 16, 2014

Psalm 51 – the Miserere, is the Biblical text around which the Ash Wednesday liturgy revolves. George Malcolm's setting (Malcolm was Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral between 1947 and 1959) is an alternatim setting of the Psalm. It's a beautiful piece of work that deserves to be far better known in which Malcolm switches between the higher and lower voices in an unadorned second mode chant which he offsets with polyphonic expansions and variations. The voices join together for the second half of the Gloria  in a descant of great power and beauty.

markfromireland

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Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): In manus tuas

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March 28, 2014

Tallis' setting of the Compline respond is quite typical of his Elizabethan Latin Church music, it's beguiling in its simplicity and its beauty. Tallis' solution of what to do with this piece that could not be performed liturgically was elegant – he turned it into a motet.

markfromireland

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3rd Sunday of Lent 2014: Eriks Ešenvalds (b1977) – Passion and Resurrection

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March 23, 2014

Eriks EšenvaldsEriks Ešenvalds' Passion and Resurrection was written in 2005 and premiered by Maris Sirmais and the State Choir Latvija. It recounts the Passion using a series of viewpoints that Ešenvalds connects musically to create an integrated whole. Even if you feel that modern choral music isn't for you I'd encourage you to give this piece a try you may be very pleasantly surprised.   It's written in four parts that succeed each other without interruption and each of which is prefaced by lines from scripture and interwoven with quotations from by the sixteenth-century Spanish composer Cristóbal de Morales' setting of Parce Mihi. The piece requires an expert choir and makes heavy demands on the soprano soloist but when the choir is the English choir 'Polyphony' under their conductor Stephen Layton and the soprano soloist is Carolyn Sampson the demands of the piece are handled masterfully and convincingly. I wonder why it is that so many singers who specialise in Medieval, Renaissance, or Baroque music have such an affinity for modern music. Whatever the reason we benefit from Carolyn Sampson's sympathetic and supremely confident singing here. Passion and Resurrection made a strong impression on me when I first heard it and I enjoy it more and more with each listening, I hope you will too.

markfromireland

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Heinrich Schütz (1585 – 1672): Selig sind die Toten

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March 19, 2014

Heinrich Schütz 180x150 captionedThis is one of the few of Schütz's motets that is both well-known and to have attained lasting popularity. It was first published in 1648 in the collection of twenty-nine of Schütz's motets called 'Geistliche Chormusik' and is scored for  SSATTB, with continuo. These motets are important not only for their beauty but because they represent the point at which Schütz turned away from the Venetian practices of his youth turning instead to a more traditional Northern European model. There's a renewed focus on imitative polyphony which, in the preface to 'Geistliche Chormusik' Schütz recommended as a discipline to budding composers.

Selig sind die Toten (blessed are the dead) follows Schütz's strictures it's style is quite as imitative as you would expect in a motet whose composer consciously set out to write a piece that emulates a Renaissance motet. It doesn't quite end there though. Schütz was a man of his time and so it's not completely a Renaissance motet there are elements that belong to the Baroque era such as the remarkable expressive contrasts.

markfromireland

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Orlande de Lassus (±1530-1594): Ecce nunc benedicite Dominum

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February 26, 2014

Orlande de Lassus 180x200 De Lassus' seven-part setting of Ecce nunc benedicite Dominum (Psalm 134 Behold now, praise the Lord) sung below by the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge, conducted by  Andrew Nethsingha accompanied by His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts is notable for its rich textures. De Lassus exploited to the full the opportunity to devise vocal combinations without ever resorting to bi-choral cliché. I like how all seven voices make their first combined entry at 'omnes' (all) in 'Omnes servi domini' and the musical contrast he draws between 'benedicite' where it's the populace giving praise and asking to be blessed and 'benedicat' where it's the Lord doing the blessing. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

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Forthcoming Posts

  • Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625): ‘Drop, drop, slow tears’
  • 6th Sunday of Lent 2014: Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross Op 51

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