Posts Tagged ‘ Psalms ’

Psalm 23 (Bay Psalm Book): American Boy Choir

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May 11, 2015

Bay Psalm 23
The Bay Psalm book is probably unknown to my readers on this side of the Atlantic, and, I suspect, to many in America, and so a little history before listening to the music is appropriate. In 1640 the Massachusetts Bay Colony published the Bay Psalm Book (it was printed by Stephen Daye in the house of the president of Harvard College) this was a remarkable event in American history in several ways. It was the first book to be published in the colonies which would make it an important event in its own right. Even more important however is that it was the first book to be entirely written in the colonies and thus represents an important parting of the ways between America and Britain.  "Thirty pious and learned Ministers" amongst them Richard Mather, John Eliot, Thomas Weld, and John Cotton translated the psalms contained in the metrical Psalter. The translations can seem a bit rough, a bit unpolished, and so far as I know none of them are in widespread use today (although many of the tunes to which the translations were sung have survived). In its time it was widely read and used and was used by the Puritan congregations of New England. They used it in preference to the Anglican psalter precisely because it was theirs it was written by their fellow Puritans for them it was an important statement of their independence and of their growing self-confidence. It went through about forty reprintings at first and in all has been reprinted more than a hundred times. The rendition of Psalm 23 which you can hear below the American Boychoir conducted by Fernando Malvar-Ruiz was given during the  during the 2014 American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Eastern Division Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. I've included the text below the video. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Juan de Anchieta (1462-1523): Beatus Vir

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April 15, 2015

Anchieta Burial place

Juan de Anchieta was born near Azpeitia in the Basque country, he was the scion of an aristocratic family related by marriage to the Loyola family. It seems likely that he studied music at Salamanca but his career didn't really begin until February 6th 1489 when he was appointed as a singer in Queen Isabella's court chapel at a salary of 20,000 maravedís per annum. Four years later this salary was raised to 30,000 maravedís per annum and in 1495 the queen appointed him as maestro de capilla to her son the  17-year-old prince Don Juan. As well as his salary the queen rewarded him by granting him several ecclesiastical preferments and on her death in 1504 Anchieta transferred to the household of her daughter Joanna and her consort Philip the Fair. During this period he travelled with Joanna's court to  Flanders and England along with such accomplished musicians as Pierre de La Rue, Alexander Agricola and Marbrianus de Orto. His salary by this time had risen to 30,000 maravedís per annum and Joanna continued her mother's policy of granting him ecclesiastical livings to supplement his salary. In 1519 the Emperor Charles V declared that Anchieta who by then was 57 and in poor health was too old for service at court but continued to pay his salary.  Anchieta was associated at this time with the Franciscan sisters in Azpeitia and acted for a time as their business manager. He died in Azpeitia in 1523 and was buried in the Iglesia de San Sebastián de Soreasu where he had been chaplain.

His music in some ways reminds me of his contemporary Peñalosa but it's far less ornate than Peñalosa's music. Peñalosa wrote for highly trained professional choirs while Anchieta's music is written for large choirs. It's very graceful and typically Iberian in its sonority but avoids the often very academic mannerisms of Peñalosa and the Flemish composers so beloved of the Spanish royal family and aristocracy. Juan de Anchieta was primarily interested in the sound of sonorous and approachable music you can hear this particularly clearly in his use of chant for his setting of verses from Psalm 111 (Beatus Vir) which you can hear below. It's a very plain but very appealing setting Anchieta keeps the chant largely intact adding only a little ornamentation and some cadential variation to propel the music forward.  Enjoy :-).

mfi

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William Byrd (±1539-1623): Tribulatio proxima est

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March 31, 2015

Byrd's penitential motet Tribulatio proxima est (Tribulation is near ) was published in the Cantiones Sacrae of 1591 and takes its text from Psalms 21 and 69 respectively. As you might expect of Byrd the music serves to portray the text so we have a strong outcry at the plea for justice (vindica me), twisted and anxious music at contumelias et terrores (insults and terrors), the slow build up of homophony to portray God's strength as the Psalmist's helper (adiutor) and the plea for God to hasten to the aid of the faithful Domine, ne moreris (O Lord, tarry not) which Byrd repeats no less than five times.

mfi

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Hans Leo Hassler (1562-1612): Ad Dominum

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March 28, 2015

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 Andrea Gabrieli he stayed in Venice for eighteen months and returned to Germany taking up a position in Augsburg  as chamber organist to Octavian Fugger II. Word of this talented musician and composer spread  the Landgrave of Hesse tried to "poach" him from the Fuggers while the emperor granted him a potentially very lucrative patent to copyright his works. When Fugger died in 1600 the town council tried to keep him in Augsburg by making him the town's musical director but Hassler returned to his home town a year later to take up a similar posting, in 1607 he travelled to Ulm where he married severing all ties to Nuremburg. In 1608 Christian II of Saxony commissioned a composition from him and then appointed Hassler to his staff, he continued as a member of the Saxon court rising quickly to Kapellmeister until his death in 1612.

Musically Hassler was both conservative and ecumenical, ecumenical in that although he himself was a protestant he was quite happy to compose for both the Catholic and Lutheran churches and conservative in that he never wrote a piece that used that hallmark of baroque music the basso continuo  confining his religious compositions to the polyphonic idiom that had been at its height fifty years earlier not only that but you'll often hear the cantus firmus as a motif in every part of his composition. Having said that he was musically conservative I had better qualify that statement somewhat by saying that it was his religious music that was so conservative, he wrote a considerable quantity of secular music such as madrigals, instrumental works, and dance songs, in all of which genres he allowed himself to be somewhat more free-handed. His motet Ad Dominum cum tribularer (In my distress I cried unto the Lord) which takes its texts from the opening verses of Psalm 120  is another exception to the conservatism rule. It's very chromatic with none of the traditional diatonic harmonies, and as you listen you can hear what he was trying to do – to make his music match the text to portray both tribulation (cum tribularer) and its cause a deceitful tongue (lingua dolosa).

mfi

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William Byrd (±1539-1623): Da mihi auxilium

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March 13, 2015

This six-part (SAATTB) motet with divided tenors and baritones was published in Canciones Sacræ (1575). Its text is taken from Psalm 107 and is a plea to God for respite and aid in times of tribulation. It's quite similar in style to Domine secundum actum meum they're both Aeolian, there's the same voices, and those voices are in the same clefs, both make very sophisticated use of double imitation, and they conclude in similar ways. Both motets were clearly written as an exercise in achieving an ideal form and given the similarities between Byrd's motets and Ferrabosco's I think it's fairly clear that the exemplar for this ideal form was Ferrabosco's Domine non secundum peccata nostra. Enjoy :-)

mfi

 

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