Ēriks Ešenvalds (b1977): Amazing grace

Let’s start the week with Ēriks Ešenvalds’ arrangement of Amazing Grace he wrote it in 2004 for the Latvian youth choir Kamēr. The idea behind Ešenvalds arrangement is both simple and daring he treats it as a set of variations within a chorale taking the tune and varying it each time it’s heard. We first…

Mater ora filium — 14th century polyphony

This source of this charming piece of 14th century polyphony is a Gradual of Sarum chant now in the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library1 Both the composer and the text’s author are unknown and it seems likely as it was the only polyphonic item in the gradual that it was intended for liturgical use. It’s…

John Sheppard (±1515-1558): Æterne Rex altissime

The hymn Aeterne Rex altissime (Eternal king most high) is rather more than a thousand years old. It was first cited by the Saxon monk, theologian and poet  Gottschalk of Orbais (808 AD -867 AD) and included the 9th-century New Hymnal.  Sheppard’s setting would have been intended to be sung at Vespers on Ascension Day,…

Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474): Flos florum

The text Dufay’s Marian three-part (ATT) motet Flos FLorum is to be found in the Analecta hymnica medii aevi.  It’s a song motet which means firstly that Dufay composed the melody in its entirety making no reference to the chant, and secondly that unlike previous generations’ motets their form is neither inferred nor derived from…

Francisco Guerrero ( 1528 – 1599): Prudentes virgines

Francisco Guerrero’s five-part motet Prudentes virgines (wise virgins) sets a text based on the Gospel parable of the ten virgins (the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins) it was first published in Venice in 1570.  Guerrero was greatly admired by his contemporaries not least Alonso Lobo who based his Missa Prudentes virgines upon Guerrero’s…

Peter Philips (1560-1628): Regina Caeli laetare

The Regina Caeli is one of four Marian antiphons traditionally said or sung after compline. It is said throughout Eastertide –  the fifty day period from Easter Sunday to Pentecost, and during that period can be said in place of the Angelus. Philips’  setting while it is for two choirs is more Roman than Venetian…

Hans Leo Hassler (1562-1612): Ad Dominum

Hassler was very influential in his day both Bach (O Haput voll Blut und Wunde) and Schütz (Psalmen Davids) quoted his music. The son of a stonecutter and part time musician in Nuremburg he was sent to Venice to study music and composition. In Venice he came under the influence of the Gabrieli’s  studying under…

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

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…

Heinrich Isaac (±1450 –1517): Missa De Apostolis

I can’t tell you very much about this very prolific South Netherlands composer’s early life neither his birthday which could be any time during the five-year period 1450-55 nor his birthplace are known. He was a layman who and appears not to have attended university what he was was a very accomplished composer some of…