The Tudors at Prayer
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Cat No: CKD447
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 19th May 2014
Adolescentulus sum ego
Vox patris caelestis
Suscipe quaeso Domine
Quemadmodum desiderat cervus
Domine, quis habitabit III
Tota pulchra es
Continuing its exploration of Tudor Latin sacred music, ‘The Tudors at Prayer’ sees Magnificat perform music by Taverner, Tallis, Mundy, White and Byrd.
The highlight is Mundy’s towering Vox Patris caelestis. Immensely vivid and colourful, this is a powerful performance to challenge any that has gone before. Equally enthralling as Magnificat’s critically acclaimed 'Spem in alium', but with even richer textures, Vox Patris caelestis perfectly demonstrates Magnificat’s heaven-sent sound.
Byrd’s heartfelt setting of Tribue, Domine plus a premiere recording of White’s Tota pulchra es, and his sublime psalm setting Domine, quis habitabit are further stand-out moments.
‘The Tudors At Prayer’ provides further evidence of the extraordinary richness of this centuries-old repertoire.
Magnificat is one of the world’s premier vocal ensembles whose recordings have met with huge critical acclaim: 'Spem in alium' was hailed as ‘quite the best performance of Tallis's 40-part Spem in alium that I have heard' by Gramophone and was ‘First Choice’ in Building a Library on BBC Radio 3's CD Review. In addition, Victoria’s 'Officium Defunctorum' was named ‘Critics’ Choice’ by Gramophone and chosen by The Rough Guide as one of its ‘100 Essential Classical CDs’.
Directed by Philip Cave, Magnificat specialises in the restoration and performance of neglected choral masterpieces of the 16th and 17th centuries.
In association with Linn Records, Magnificat has undertaken many highly successful recording projects of music from ‘The Golden Age’, including works by Gesualdo, Guerrero, des Prez, Rebelo, Victoria, Allegri, Tallis and Da Palestrina, as well as Latin sacred music by Robert Parsons, Robert White and William Byrd and two recordings to commemorate the 450th anniversary of composer Philippe Rogier.
‘Sonic splendour abounds in the Magnificat choir.' - BBC Music Magazine
‘The blend and ensemble of the voices is beyond reproach.’ - Gramophone
‘Long lines of intertwining and unfolding polyphony, performed with warmth and purity.’ - The Observer
The Europadisc Review
Magnificat is a choral ensemble founded in 1991 by conductor Philip Cave, specialising in music of post-Reformation England and late renaissance Spain. It has won an enviable reputation with its recordings on Linn and now, in the same month that several of its earlier releases are being re-issued in standard CD format, comes this brand-new hybrid SACD of English sacred music from the mid-sixteenth century. This was a time of tremendous social and religious upheaval in England, yet – despite or even because of the reshaping of the liturgy in the nascent Anglican church – the polyphonic setting of Latin devotional and psalm texts actually flourished.
'The Tudors at Prayer' amply demonstrates the musical riches of this period, featuring music from several of its foremost composers, with works that are easily on a par with the greatest in continental Europe of the time. Pride of place here goes to William Mundy (c.1529–1591), whose Vox Patris caelestis is by far the longest work on the disc; it is a votive antiphon – a devotional work with a strong Marian theme suitable for private performance – written for six voices and organised in three large-scale formal sections, each of which is subject to a further threefold division. The text is an elaboration of a passage ('Tota pulchra es') from the Song of Songs, and Mundy uses a variety of textures and techniques to create a dazzling combination of opulence and intimacy, blossoming into some gorgeously soaring soprano lines. If it was indeed composed for the accession of Mary I in 1553, as has been suggested, one could scarcely imagine a more lavish musical celebration: this is one of the crowning glories of Tudor music. Also included is another, somewhat shorter votive antiphon which sets the Tota pulchra es text itself, this time by Mundy's younger contemporary Robert White (c.1538–1574); organising the music around a plainsong melody, White creates a lyrical and expansive sound-world which makes his early death from the plague all the more regrettable. Though similar in its unbridled exultant tone to Mundy's Vox Patris, it nevertheless offers telling differences in musical style.
Earliest of the composers included here is John Taverner, whose Quemadmodum desiderat cervus (a setting of two verses from Psalm 42, 'Like as the hart') was until recently known only in an instrumental version; it's a strikingly modern piece for its time, rich and full-textured in the style of the great continental Renaissance composers. Three further psalm-motets are Mundy's five-voice Adhaesit pavimento and Adolescentus sum ego, and White's splendid Domine, quis habitabit, each featuring closely-woven imitative polyphonic textures throughout.
The recording is completed by a pair of meditative motets from two of the greatest English musicians of the period: Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. Tallis's seven-voice Suscipe, quaeso Domine and Byrd's six-voice Tribue, Domine are taken from the composers' landmark joint publication, Cantiones sacrae of 1575. In its musical style Suscipe Domine is remarkably close to the Tallis's own Spem in alium (which is recommendation indeed), while Byrd's multi-section Tribue, Domine shows a great musical mind experimenting with a bold variety of textures.
All the performances are beautifully blended, with the singers of Magnificat exemplifying the very best of the English style, and each piece is shaped with loving care under Cave's unerring direction. The notes by Kerry McCarthy are detailed and informative, there are full texts and English translations, and the recording (made at St George's Chesterton, Cambridge in January 2013) is ideally warm.
1Mundy - Vox Patris Caelestis
2Mundy - Adhaesit Pavimento
3White - Tota Pulchra Es
4Taverner - Quemadmodum Desiderat Cervus
5Mundy - Adolescentulus Sum Ergo
6White - Domine, Quis Habitabit (III)
7Tallis - Suscipe, Quaeso Domine
8Byrd - Tribue, Domine
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