Taverner - Western Wynde Mass, Missa Mater Christi sanctissima
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Cat No: CDA68147
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 1st July 2016
WorksMass: The Western Wynde
Mater Christi sanctissima
Missa Mater Christi sanctissima
ArtistsWestminster Abbey Choir
1Taverner: Mater Christi Sanctissima
2Taverner: Missa Mater Christi Sanctissima - 1. Gloria
3Taverner: Missa Mater Christi Sanctissima - 2. Credo
4Taverner: Missa Mater Christi Sanctissima - 3. Sanctus
5Taverner: Missa Mater Christi Sanctissima - 4. Benedictus
6Taverner: Missa Mater Christi Sanctissima - 5. Agnus Dei
7Taverner: Western Wynde Mass - 1. Gloria
8Taverner: Western Wynde Mass - 2. Credo
9Taverner: Western Wynde Mass - 3. Sanctus
10Taverner: Western Wynde Mass - 4. Benedictus
11Taverner: Western Wynde Mass - 5. Agnus Dei
The motet was written while the composer was organist and choir master at Cardinal College (now Christ Church), Oxford, in the late 1520s, where – under the watchful eye of Cardinal Wolsey – devotion to Mary the Mother of God was given special attention. This performance has a gentle, lilting quality that is most appealing, the trebles effortlessly soaring up to their higher notes. The Mater Christi Mass survives with one voice-part missing in the only extant source; for this recording Francis Steele’s splendid reconstruction is used, and the result is a revelation, combining moments of ecstasy such as the ending of the Gloria with passages of high excitement like the final ‘Dona nobis pacem’ of the Agnus Dei. Overall, the performance is marked by an engaging ebullience which should win this elusive work many admirers. As with many English masses of the period, the Missa Mater Christi lacks a polyphonic Kyrie, as does the even more compact Western Wynde Mass, based on a popular (and mildly risqué) secular song of the time. Less incisively ‘edgy’ than Parrott’s account with smaller forces, this smoother, more ethereal performance is nevertheless marvellously buoyant, thanks to the lively speeds set by James O’Donnell. The average age of boy trebles may be rather lower now than in Taverner’s time, but it is still thrilling and gloriously transporting to hear his music performed by such forces, and this disc certainly withstands comparison with the finest modern all-adult choirs. Recorded in St Alban’s Church, Holborn, it is well-focused but warm, the trebles captured perfectly alongside the richly expressive lower voices. Lucid, entertaining notes by Jeremy Summerly further enhance this highly attractive release.
Little more than half a mile away on London’s Victoria Street is another of the capital's great choral establishments: Westminster Cathedral Choir has been a mainstay of the Hyperion catalogue since the days of David Hill’s directorship in the 1980s. Where the Abbey choir excels in the English repertoire from the Tudor to modern eras, the Catholic Cathedral Choir has long cultivated a brighter, more consciously continental sound, seemingly tailor-made for the Spanish and Italian Renaissance works of Victoria, Palestrina and their contemporaries.
Released a month before the Abbey’s Taverner disc, the latest addition to the Cathedral Choir’s discography focuses on the Spanish composer Alonso Lobo (1555-1617). Remembered now chiefly for the funeral motet Versa est in luctum composed on the death of Philip II, Lobo was a protégé of Francisco Guerrero, and spent most of his adult career at Seville and Toledo. Six of his Mass settings were published in Madrid in 1602, the two largest for six voices. One of them – the Missa Maria Magdalene – is heard on the latest disc, together with Guerrero’s Easter-themed motet on which it is based. Alongside these sumptuously-textured works are Lobo’s even more striking Lamentations for Holy Saturday, with their extravagant settings of Hebrew letters and a gorgeous final invocation, ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem’. Two motets, Regina caeli laetare and O quam suavis est, complete an ear-catching disc. On the strength of this, Lobo’s music is well-overdue a revival, and we must hope for more soon.
Well presented as ever, both discs are a huge credit to the Hyperion team, as they are to the respective ensembles from this remarkable corner of London: long may their creative partnerships flourish!
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