Posts Tagged ‘ Western Wind Mass ’

Feature: Christopher Tye (c1505-before 15 March 1573): Western Wynde Mass

May 23, 2012

'England one God, one truth, one doctor hath for music's art—and that is Dr Tye'

(Edward VI quoting his father Henry VII's opinion of his music teacher Christopher Tye).

Westminster Abbey reflected in the doorplate of the Abbey's Choir School

Like his exact contemporary Thomas Tallis Christopher Tye successfully navigated the storms of the English reformation. Both Tye and Tallis composed music for Protestant and Catholic services although Tye – unlike Tallis, is known to have Protestant sympathies. Tye ended his musical career holding what was then a very prestigious post that of Master of Choristers at Ely cathedral. His music is very individual and often startlingly beautiful a description that certainly applies to his setting of the Western Wynde Mass. Tye's Western Wynde Mass, is most likely:

  1. An early work.
  2. Intended as a complement to Taverner's own Mass based on the secular English song.

Tye's setting of the Western Wynde Mass is one of three English Masses all based on the same song. The other two are by John Taverner and John Sheppard, I've written about the here: Sunday Playlist: Taverner "Westron Wynde" | Saturday Chorale and Feature: John Sheppard (c1515-1558): The Western Wynde Mass | Saturday Chorale. I like this setting, Click here to listen to the music and read the rest of the posting ...

Feature: John Sheppard (c1515-1558): The Western Wynde Mass

February 15, 2012

Sheppard's 'The Western Wynde' Mass is one of three directly comparable settings by Taverner, Sheppard and Tye.  Of the three Sheppard's is the shortest – it has just under half the number of bars found in Taverner's setting for example. Sheppard's cuts are drastic, he repeats the melody twenty-four times frequently omitting the third phrase of the tune. He also cut the Mass text more than either Taverner or Tye. The result is a use of musical language that is different from and more modern than that of its predecessors. Sheppard bowed in the direction of the complex melismas and rhythms of the preceding generations but the musical language he uses is far crisper and syllabic. This crisper and more syllabic musical language  has led Peter Phillips of the Tallis Scholars to suggest that Sheppard was influenced by the "Protestant ideals of textual clarity" when he wrote it.

The brevity and relative simplicity of Sheppard's setting of the 'The Western Wynde Mass'  has led people to speculation that it was a student exercise but this seems to me to be unlikely. It seems clear that Sheppard intended the Mass was for  liturgical use and that he composed it during the reign of Queen Mary I.  That being so it couldn't be too long — tastes had changed and there were no longer the resources available for extravagant settings along the old model. This brevity is in fact one of the Mass' strengths as it helps provide the strong sense of forward motion present throughout the Mass. Text and translation are both below the fold.

Enjoy :-)


Text: Western Wynde Mass

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

Sunday Playlist: Taverner "Westron Wynde"

October 9, 2011

westernwind_score_01 "Westron wynde, when wyll thou blow,

The small rayne downe can rayne.

Cryst, yf my love were in my armys,

And I yn my bed agayne."

"Western wind when will thou blow,

The small rain down can rain.

Christ, if my love were in my arms,

And I in my bed again."

For this Sunday's "Sunday Playlist" I've uploaded five music videos of the Danish Choir Ars Nova Copenhagen performing John Taverner's 'Westron Wynde' ('Western Wind' ) Mass and put them into a playlist for you to enjoy. It's one of my favourite Masses, one of my favourite pieces of Tudor music, and it's performed here by one of my favourite choirs.
The 'Westron Wynde' Mass gets its name from the fact that it's built on a cantus firmus resembling the melody found in GB-Lbl Roy. App.58, f.5 (see picture). Taverner's 'Westron Wynde' Mass is one of three Masses built upon this decidedly secular melody (the other two were composed by Tye and Sheppard).

Using a secular tune as a cantus firmus — a term which in this context means using a pre-existing melody as the basis of a new polyphonic composition, was quite common amongst continental composers, «L'homme armé » was used as a cantus firmus for settings of the Mass by both Josquin and Dufay for example but that wasn't the case in England. Taverner's 'Westron Wynde' Mass is unique in English renaissance music in that not only is it the first English composition for a Mass based on a secular tune it is also the first in a linked series of compositions of the Mass by different composers. Taverner uses the melody 36 times in all (9 times in each section) switching between voices in a series of polyphonic variations. I particularly like how Taverner does this in this Mass, he couples a very proportionate setting with considerable inventiveness so that each voice gives us a new perspective on the melody. This inventiveness coupled with balance is why it's one of his most influential works and why it is popular to this day.

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


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