Posts Tagged ‘ English Choirs ’

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Plorans Plorabit

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 :-).


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William Byrd (±1539-1623): Domine ante te omne desiderium

August 29, 2014

This terse but wonderful six-part setting of two verses from Psalm 37 (Psalm 38 in protestant Bibles) is an early piece which exists only in manuscript. I love how the first verse is so … … … tenative and how it gathers pace, and conviction, as Byrd moves the motet forward to describing in music the Psalmist's feelings.
Enjoy :-)


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Bo Hansson (1950 – ): Slowly rises the narrow whirl of longing

August 26, 2014

Breathlessly we will taste the words that never
Burned on our tongue

Hansson set Hultman Löfvendahl's Swedish language poem Den plats bland träden (The place amongst the trees) in 2000 for the Stockholm Musikgymnasiums Kammarkör. Both he and the poet were happy with the work and collaborated on this English language version of the piece. It's a comment on the increasing transience of modern human interaction and communication that starts very very quietly and then oh so gently and gradually building layer upon layer of sound and tempo around a rising central pitch transforms itself several times over. Each transformation is more intense – and transient, than the last rather like much in modern life. Enjoy :-).


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William Byrd (±1539-1623): Nunc Dimittis from the Great Service

August 25, 2014

Byrd's settings for the Great Service took Anglican music forward from its hesitant and somewhat experimental phase into somewhat more splendid territory. He probably wrote the Magnificat (about which I wrote last Friday see: William Byrd (±1539-1623): Magnificat from the Great Service | Saturday Chorale) and the Nunc Dimittis last it's beautiful music which manages to obey the requirement that the text should be set clearly while making use of juxtaposition and contrast to great dramatic effect. It's been described as the 'finest unaccompanied setting of the Service in the entire repertory of English church music' I have to say I agree. Enjoy :-)-


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William Byrd (±1539-1623): Magnificat from the Great Service

August 22, 2014

byrd_signature_01_small Although he was a devout Catholic Byrd nevertheless produced music for his royal protector's church. Not very much of it to be sure and none of it was published under his name,  people sometimes assume that because he believed so strongly that the Anglican church was in error that the music he produced for its services must necessarily be somehow lesser than the music he produced for his fellow Catholics and their persecuted church. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the Magnificat from the Great Service testifies.

It's a relatively late work that must date from the last years of the century and both its musical breadth and its lavish ten-part structure (SAATBSAATB)  makes me think that he wrote it for the Chapel Royal.  He pays musical homage to the previous generation's canticle settings  but handles them in a far more imaginative and sophisticated way. There's a lot of juxtaposition and contrast which Byrd exploits to dramatic effect. The effect is both sonorous and beautiful I cannot help but think that Elizabeth would have been very pleased with him. Enjoy :-)


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