29 Mar 2020

Medieval Folk in the Revivals of David Munrow

Medieval Folk in the Revivals of David Munrow
Edward Breen
The Oxford Handbook of Music and Medievalism
Edited by Stephen C. Meyer and Kirsten Yri


Abstract
This article explores the close relationship between medievalism, orientalism, and folk music in the work of early music revival pioneer David Munrow, director of the Early Music Consort of London from 1968 to 1976. The focus of this study is his last television work Ancestral Voices, a BBC series exploring myths and legends surrounding early instruments and tracing those associations through history. It also examines other popular genres prevalent on British television at the same time and suggests that through a focus on a constellation of myth, medievalism, and foreign ancestry, Ancestral Voices demonstrates a significant cultural allegiance to other key 1970s works.

28 Mar 2020

Salve, Salve, Salve

Salve, Salve, Salve: Josquin’s Spanish Legacy
Contrapunctus, Owen Rees
Signum SIGCD608


All roads lead to Josquin, even those routed through the Iberian Peninsula. This superb new recording from Owen Rees and Contrapunctus charts a key way in which Josquin’s influence continued to mushroom after his own prolific career by exploring ostinato technique—the repeated use of a musical motto as binding agent in the polyphonic texture—through motets by Morales (c.1500-1553) and Guerrero (1527/8-1599) alongside Victoria’s (c.1548-1611) broad and statuesque Missa Gaudeamus.

[...]

This same rising motto is found in the top voices of Victoria’s Missa Gaudeamus, an elongated, arching phrase which Rees links to Josquin’s language. More polished in this performance but slightly more reserved than the Lay Clerks of Westminster Cathedral / Matthew Martin (Hyperion CDA67748) the smouldering slow burn approach of Contrapunctus pays continued dividends throughout this mass. What is lost from the Westminster Cathedral performance in terms of vocal heft and sheer thrilling energetic uplift is gained in finesse and brilliant sheen. 

[...]

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (April 2020)

1 Mar 2020

Passions

Passions
Les Cris de Paris and Geoffroy Jourdain
Harmonia Mundi HMM902632


Passions moved, passions shared, and the Passion of Christ on the Cross. This programme, a seemingly disparate selection of early Baroque Venetian works punctuated by five settings of the Crucifixus, looks like it shouldn’t work, yet in the hands of the musicologist and conductor Geoffroy Jourdain it is both compelling and rewarding. The second Harmonia Mundi album from Les Cris de Paris is so much more than a selection box: it blends ‘transcendentally inspired secular music and sacred music embodied in theatrical fashion’, exploring commonality between sacred and secular genres.

[...]

The Crucifixus settings are the highlight of this album and Antonio Lotti’s Crucifixus a 10 is a particular standout. Readers will know this from Andrew Parrott’s searingly beautiful recording (Virgin/Erato) but Jourdain’s new performance rivals this for sheer dramatic impact. Whereas Parrott shone a spotlight on the sequence of mouth-watering suspensions in the upper voices, Jourdain undercuts this texture with a menacing continuo team whose percussive strumming evokes the nails on the Cross and provides a springboard for the voices to decry ‘passus et sepultus est’ (suffered and was buried) to devastating effect. Or perhaps Jourdain’s genius here was to follow it with the Entrata to Monteverdi’s Ballo delle ingrate. Strange bedfellows in theory but a superb transition in practice. This disc is a fine evocation of Baroque passions in every sense and one that keeps giving beyond the first few hearings. Absolutely not to be missed.


To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (March 2020)

25 Jan 2020

Music for Milan Cathedral

Music for Milan Cathedral
Werrecore – Josquin – Gaffurius – Weerbeke
Siglo de Oro, Patrick Allies
Delphian - DCD34224

This disc celebrates and contextualises the music of Hermann Matthias Werrecore (c1500-c1574) maestro di cappella of Milan Cathedral for nearly three decades. A key figure in the post-Josquin (Josquin des Pres c1450-1521) generation, and one of many Oltremontani (from over the Alps) working in Northern Italy, his sacred works have not previously been recorded despite the quality and variety of his settings and their clear influence by, and homage to Josquin. Alongside six of his motets are also first recordings of works by Dominique Phinot (c1510-c1556) and Gaspar van Weerbeke (c1445- c1516).

The smooth honeyed sound of Siglo de Oro is largely due to the soft and clear sheen of their radiant sopranos. As an ensemble they resemble The Cardinall's Musick both in tone and in their approach to the architecture of larger-scale motets such as Josquin's Alma redemptoris mater / Ave regina caelorum: they choose unhurried tempos but maintain a clear forwards direction in phrasing. Most fascinating on this album are the contrasted settings of Inviolata, integra et casta by Werrecore and Josquin which show a huge attention to detail in performance. [...]

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Feb 2020)


24 Jan 2020

Hellinck: Missa Surrexit pastor; Lupi: Te Deum & motets

Hellinck: Missa Surrexit pastor; Lupi: Te Deum & motets
The Brabant Ensemble, Stephen Rice
Hyperion CDA68304


Forget the glamour of Hollywood's Rat Pack, the sixteenth century had a Wolf Pack of musicians whose names derive from the Latin 'Lupus'. The two composers on this disc may not be the best-known, but their music can be as suave and smooth as anything sung by "Ol' Blue Eyes" himself.

Lupus Hellinck's (1493/4-1541) five voice Missa Surrexit pastor bonus is based on a motet by the Andreas de Silva (fl.1520s). The textures are bright and spacious with delightful trio and duet sections punctuating the movements. This pairing of upper voices suits the generally bright and perky performance style of The Brabant Ensemble and I also admire the pacing: erring towards brisk, the proportions of the movements are clear and the false relations cheekily piquant. [...]


To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Feb 2020)

30 Dec 2019

Nowell synge we bothe al and som

Nowell synge we bothe al and som
A Feast of Christmas Music in Medieval England
Gothic Voices



It seems extraordinary that this should be Gothic Voices’ first Christmas-themed album; nevertheless, it has been worth the wait to hear these well-known works performed by this ensemble. Choosing music for the Advent and Christmas season, including the Feast of the Annunciation (commonly referenced at Christmas in medieval times), Gothic Voices certainly don’t shy away from much-loved treasures such as the 14th-century Angelus ad virginem, where solo verses alternate with sprightly three-part harmony. Their textures are always buoyant: listen for the fourth verse, which describes the Virgin’s swollen womb, where they use an atmospheric vocalised drone. [...]

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Jan 2020)

29 Dec 2019

Antoine Brumel: From Darkness Into Light

Antoine Brumel: From Darkness Into Light
The complete Lamentations of Jeremiah for Good Friday
Musica Secreta

A tale of two Florentine manuscripts copied by the scribe Fra Antonio Moro leads the intrepid musicologist Laurie Stras to create another superb album with Musica Secreta. The first manuscript yields the complete Lamentations for Good Friday by Antoine Brumel (c1460-c1512), previously recorded by The Tallis Scholars (Gimell, 9/92), when only the verses beginning with letters Heth and Caph were known. Stras’s discovery almost doubles the length of the work and delightfully complicates its function. Falling, now, into five sections, liturgical performance seems unlikely, pointing instead to devotional use. Musica Secreta begin rather carefully, the almost equal part-ranges suiting their mix of female voices as singers’ personalities delicately delineate vocal lines. The work, and indeed the performance, really begins to reveal its true richness at the first refrain, ‘Ierusalem convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum’. Supported by the gentle uplift of Claire Williams’s organ-playing and the sinewy tone of Alison Kinder’s viol, the sopranos find a sweet resonance as they lean into the phrases without losing overall blend. The result is a wonderfully radiant sound that allows individual voices to ring through. [...]


To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Jan 2020)