Posts Tagged ‘ Psalms ’

William Child (1606-1697): O praise the Lord

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July 15, 2014

William Child is largely forgotten today and when musicologists do discuss his music they tend to dismiss it as unimaginative and utilitarian. I very much doubt though that that is what his contemporaries and his successors, who included Blow and Purcell thought. We may today be grateful for our rich inheritance of music from Blow, Purcell, but it was Child who laid the groundwork for them by singledhandedly producing a vast output of church music for the Anglican church as it struggled to make a new start and re-establish its traditions after the 1660 restoration of the monarchy. His music served as a model for the first generation of Restoration composers and both Blow and Purcell thought sufficiently highly of his music to transcribe it and develop it further  for example by developing the aria-recitative structure which much of his music anticipates. His importance then is as a model but not only as a model, granted he wasn't a genius but even the most run-of-the-mill of his compositions are eminently listenable to and at his best his music shows both vitality and sensitivity to the the texts he was setting. I think it unfair to dismiss his music as nothing more than a way-point between Gibbons and Blow it's more accurate to see him as the first Restoration composer as the man who paved the way for Blow and Purcell. His anthem 'O Praise the Lord', a setting of the first four verses of Psalm 135, was 'Composed Upon the Restauration of the Church And Royall Family in 1660' and marks the start of the climb to greatness of English church music as it recovered from the devastation wrought upon it by the Puritans.  Enjoy :-).

mfi

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John Blow (1649 – 1708): I will hearken

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July 7, 2014

The collapse of the Puritan regime and the restoration of the Stuart monarchy under Charles II in 1660 meant an immediate change in the style of government. Charles' government immediate priority was restoring those institutions of state that the Puritans had destroyed and that included the Chapel Royal which had been a vital centre of English musical life.  Cooke – Charles' first choirmaster had a difficult task because the tradition of training choirboys had been destroyed but he did have benefit of being able to ride a wave of pent-up creative energy. Blow was a chorister at at Newark Parish Church when Cooke conscripted him into Chapel Royal's choir thirteen years later Blow was appointed as as Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal a post he held for nearly thirty five years combining it with a very successful career as a composer.

His setting of verses 8-12 of psalm 85 is one two dozen symphony anthems that he composed for the Chapel Royal.  It's a contemplative and quite intimate piece that uses short ritornellos that develop naturally from the vocal material rather than a main symphony. Blow chose to have the instruments accompany the voices instead of alternating with them and it is this innovation which accounts for the piece's pleasing richness and the seamlessness of its texture. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643): Confitebor tibi Domine

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May 12, 2014

For this setting of Psalm 111 Monteverdi re-used parts of his madrigals Dolcissimo uscignolo and Chi vol haver felice published in 1638 in his Eighth Book.  The syllabic word-setting and fluctuating musical pulse that you can hear throughout means that it's in the French vers mesuré style or at least it's in that somewhat staid style until we get to the 'Gloria Patri' at which point Monteverdi lets the soloist show what they can do with some vocal fireworks. It's something of an oddity because while  Monteverdi set it for soprano soloist accompanied by choir and continuo he also wrote a note explaining that it could be performed with "four violin family instruments, leaving the soprano part to a solo voice", which is the array of musical forces used in the excellent performance below. Enjoy :-)

markfromireland

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Dieterich Buxtehude (±1637-1707): Jubilate Domino, omnis terra

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April 30, 2014

Buxtehude's Jubilate Domino, omnis terra is found in Gustav Duben's collection of his works now housed in Uppsala University's Library. It must have been composed by 1690 at the latest but for whom I don't know. Whoever they were they must have been very good musicians. It's a very Italianate work consisting of a sonata and three arias separated interspersed with short recitativo passages sung below by Robert Blaze. Enjoy :-)

markfromireland

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Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Laudate Dominum RV606

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April 24, 2014

Vivaldi's powerful and concise setting of Psalm 116 (117 in Protestant bibles) for choir and strings is one of my favourites. It dates from his 'first' period at the Pietà because it's so short – there're only two verses plus the Lesser Doxology Vivaldi had to find a way of making it musically interesting. He solved the problem by reversing the usual order of priorities all of the melodic and rhythmic interest in the piece lies in the violin part with its short archiform motif that appears and reappears in some variation or another in literally every bar. The result is a magnificent piece of music for unison violins with vocal accompaniment. Enjoy :-)

markfromireland

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