Posts Tagged ‘ Tudor Music ’

John Sheppard (c1515–December 1558): Media Vita

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March 25, 2014

Sheppard's music is not as popular as that of his contemporaries – I think this is a shame as he's right up there alongside his better-known contemporaries Taverner, Tye, White, and even Tallis. If you want to hear Tudor era music of breathtaking beauty and originality then Sheppard's compositions surely fit the bill. Media Vita is his undoubted masterpiece its sheer breadth of phrasing and expressiveness coupled with stunning sonorities and a remarkably deft hand with dissonance always stops me in my tracks. It's been recorded a few times – I think the most recent recording is by Stile Antico, but the recording below was the first and the one I find that I come back to time and time again.

markfromireland

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William Byrd (±1539-1623): Unto the hills mine eyes I lift

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September 11, 2013

The text of Byrd's 'Unto the hills mine eyes I lift' is taken from Psalm 121 and was published in his 'Songs of Sundrie Natures' in 1598. It's a surprisingly old-fashioned piece with echoes of the music of Robert Parsons - Byrd uses the Flemish style of imitation in the same way that Parsons did in his 'Deliver me from mine enemies'. This makes me wonder if 'Unto the hills mine eyes I lift' was a musical homage to Parsons. For obvious reasons Byrd didn't write much religious in English but what there is is exquisite. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

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Thomas Tallis Loquebantur variis linguis – YouTube

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September 7, 2013

Tallis' motet Loquebantur variis linguis is a polyphonic responsory of the type created and established in the repertoire by Taverner. It's a Pentecostal motet (as can immediately be seen from the text and translation which I give below) and is characterised by a tenor cantus firmus around which the six other voices create a polyphonic web. Its ends with a very lavish Alleluia. The score is available from here:

http://www3.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Loquebantur_variis_linguis_%28Thomas_Tallis%29

markfromireland

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Feature: Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Gaude gloriosa

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July 3, 2013

Mary I Queen of England (Newburgh Prioryc)150x150 CaptionedThis is a monumental piece of work conceived on a grand scale in which Tallis brings to bear all his skill and all his experience to do honour to the Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven and at the same time to pay a compliment to Queen Mary I of England who was attempting to reunite the deeply Catholic world of her childhood with the partially reformed England she had inherited following the death of her brother Edward VI. In saying 'all his experience' I am placing myself on the side of those who consider this to be a relatively late work rather than a work of Tallis' youth. I have several reasons to believe that Gaude gloriosa or Gaude gloriosa Dei mater (Rejoice, glorious mother of God) to give it its full title is a relatively late work :

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Christopher Tye (±1505 — before 15 March 1573): Omnes Gentes, Plaudite Manibus

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June 12, 2013

Tye’s life and career straddled four reigns Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I, Elizabeth I or to put it another way his life and career straddled some of the most turbulent and dangerous decades of English history decades during which men like Tye were forced to decide which side of an increasingly vicious struggle for men's religious allegiances was being waged. These were decades during which the State sanctioned religion switched from the Catholic faith to a reformed one  and back again repeatedly:

  • Henry VII: Catholic to reformed Church of England.
  • Edward VI: Protestant, Church of England became more profoundly protestant in both doctrines and practises.
  • Mary I: Returned English church and state to Catholicism.
  • Elizabeth I: Protestant monarch Catholic faith overthown in favour of reformed Church of England with Elizabeth as its supreme governor.

Tye survived all of this social, religious, and political tumult ending his career during the reign of Elizabeth I as a priest in the Diocese of Ely's famous Cathedral. His psalm motet Omnes gentes, plaudite manibus (O clap your hands together all ye people) is a bit difficult to date. Clearly we can eliminate the reign of Edward Vi (28 January 1547 – 6 July 1553) and  the years of Tye's life during which Elizabeth I was queen regnant (17 November 1558 and March 1573 or a bit before that month). So it has to be either Henrician or Marian. I think it's most likely Marian, Mary I (bloody Mary as English protestants soon came to call her) reigned for five years from July 6th 1553 until her death on November 17th 1558 she was determined to restore the Catholic faith and so far as possible undo what she thought of as the damage done first by her father and then her brother to England and its people and to that end commissioned new works from English composers to adorn the Liturgy. The style of the motet also argues for it being a more mature work composed during Mary's five-year reign:

  • First there's its triumphal and ebullient tone –  exactly the sort of tone you would expect from a church celebrating its triumphant return under a Catholic monarch determined to root out heresy.
  • Second it's a very tightly and concisely written piece of music with a driving duple metre rythmn which again suggests Mary's reign to me rather than Henry's.

Two final points before I go, the first is about the sound of the voices you'll hear – bright, clear, and glittering, this brilliant sound is only obtained where the voices particularly the treble and contratenor part maintain a high tessitura throughout. Such a sound is entirely appropriate to the text, which Tye's contemporaries whether they were Catholics or Anglicans associated with the Feast of the Ascension. However, this very high tessitura can be very difficult for modern trebles to attain and maintain not least because today's trebles voices tend to change somewhat younger than was the case in tudor times. Difficult, but not impossible, particularly when the choir in question is the Westminster Cathedral Choir who sing this and other renaissance polyphony as their daily bread and butter. Any singing of music from a different era involves compromises but this performance is as close to what Tye would have expected and wanted to hear as possible. It also happens to be very beautiful. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

Click here to listen to the music and read the rest of the posting ...

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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