Author Topic: Early English Vocal Music  (Read 1445 times)

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Offline Mandryka

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Early English Vocal Music
« on: April 07, 2016, 10:25:58 PM »


I'm sure there are many imperfections with this recording of Christopher Tye's Missa Euge Bone by David Hill/Winchester Cathedral Choir. The recording is hardly state of the art and I have a friend who says that the intonation is not the best (though I don't notice it.) But nevertheless in my opinion it is an astonishing performance because of the strength and personality of the voices, especially the lower voices - at times the male choruses made me think of those bits of Parsifal when the Grail knights start to get shirty because Amfortas won't open the shrine.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2016, 04:45:23 AM »



In this particular case, [the reasons for Peter Philips balance which favours sopranos is]  authenticity to reflect music written to show off the high voices.  Philips says that the composer had high quality upper voices available to use, that the mass was probably composed for performance in the presence of King Henry and Queen Catherine, and that therefore Taverner made a point of showing off his high voices, rather like an opera composer in 19th century Italy would write music to show off the lead soprano's voice (the comparison is Philips, not mine)

 

I must say I am very impressed with this recording of Taverner's Missa Corona Spinea. The discussion above (and other reviews on Amazon) makes it sound as though the male voices have a really secondary role, but in fact they create some wonderful harmonies (again a surprise, just because Philips in Josquin is so timid about dissonances. But here, the harmonies are fabulously tangy!)

But more than this - and this shows he's a great musician IMO - the way he tells a story with the music is magic. The tempos are  slow, but you (I) don't notice the time passing at all, such is his mastery of the music's structure.

I like the relatively small ensemble too. The balance between ecstasy and control is wonderful too.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2016, 04:48:30 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2016, 04:43:19 AM »
   

I know two recordings of Walter Frye's Missa Flos Regalis, on CDs by Hilliard and Clerks' Group. I prefer Clerks' Group for two reasons. One is they tend to chose slower tempos, which lets me smell the roses. It would be unfair to say that Hilliard are chaotic by comparison, but the faster speeds makes the music feel more complex than my brain can take: the polyphonic textures feel more like a tangled ball of string. And second, Hilliard (as always) are dominated by their countertenor's voice, and although I like David James's voice it it is sometimes so present it gets on my nerves. The blend is less annoying from Clerks' group.

Both deliver small scale performances where you're aware of the character of each singer. Furthermore, both deliver rather prayerful performance, rapt. This may be due to the nature of the music, or it may be just one of many equally valid performance styles. I'm not sure.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2016, 04:46:04 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2016, 12:42:30 PM »


Some astonishing things on this collection of English fragments from Liber unUsualis. A lilting and gentle Veni mater gracie/ Dou way Robin (Adel, Yorkshire, 1349); a harmonically interesting Sanctus (Fountains Abbey, c.1380); the extraordinary polyphony and resulting harmony in Doleo super te/ Absolon, fili me (Norwich, c. 1320); the touching, haunting, searing and intense  Novi sideris lumen resplenduit (Bury St. Edmunds, c.1280); the complex and subtle Pura, placens, pulcra/ Parfundement plure Absolon (Bury St. Edmunds, 14th c.) and the fluid Singularis laudis digna (Royal Chapel of Edward III, c.1350-60).

It's not all at this high standard, there are some less interesting monophonic music.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2016, 09:14:57 AM »


The  vigorous passion of Taverner's music is apparent in these performances of two masses by James O'Donnell and the Westminster Abbey Choir. For some reason the recording captures very well the idea of real human beings coming together to sing - each voice is so characterful you know that there's someone behind it, rather than a faceless blended sound.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2017, 09:53:39 PM »



The Clerkes of Oxenford sing Orlando Gibbons' hymns. David Wulstan was an academic who researched pitch in English church music, he argued that the pitch was high, In fact he argued that the written pitch sounded a minor third higher during this period than it does today. This idea is reflected in his recording, where he uses women with very boyish voices. This recordings is extremely beautiful and lyrical, serious and prayerful. A great joy.

Wulstan, by the way, provides the theoretical justification for Peter Philips' transpositions up of English choral music, including Missa Spinea Corona.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2017, 09:59:24 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2017, 09:58:18 PM »



I must say I am very impressed with this recording of Taverner's Missa Corona Spinea. The discussion above (and other reviews on Amazon) makes it sound as though the male voices have a really secondary role, but in fact they create some wonderful harmonies (again a surprise, just because Philips in Josquin is so timid about dissonances. But here, the harmonies are fabulously tangy!)

But more than this - and this shows he's a great musician IMO - the way he tells a story with the music is magic. The tempos are  slow, but you (I) don't notice the time passing at all, such is his mastery of the music's structure.

I like the relatively small ensemble too. The balance between ecstasy and control is wonderful too.

I have recently listened to this again, and to other recordings of the mass by The Edinburgh Cathedral Choir and by Kings College London Choir. My estimation of the performance and the music increases each time I revisit it. The balance of lower and upper voices is very effective, Taverner's parts are more clear in this recording than any other I've heard, and that's due to his transposition up I think. This is polyphonic music, and so it matters.

Just as importantly Peter Philips plays it more like a prayer than as music to dazzle the listener with virtuoso effects. That matters too!
« Last Edit: July 12, 2017, 11:46:48 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2017, 10:18:15 PM »


Rose Consort and Claire Wilinson perform Tallis, Byrd, Tomkins and Tye. There is a sort of composure to the way Clair Wilkinson and The Rose Consort of Viols make music, which I love.  Wilkinson is good, excellent, with the poetry: the articulation, and the colours in her voice, the strength of the tone she makes especially in lower registers, make the music sound as though it's meaningful and as though it matters. This IMO makes her a great vocalist, and she's got a tangy regional accent to boot, which makes the singing style sound more "authentic." . Rose Consort are distinguished not least because of the balance, the taut timbre and a certain calmness and nobility in their interpretations. There's a hushed intensity about the performances, and a strong sense of collaboration, which for me makes this a powerful recording.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2017, 11:13:04 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline San Antonio

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2017, 03:52:46 AM »


John Sheppard is not as well known as the others mentioned in this thread, but he deserves mentioning. 

"Sheppard’s music explores a unique sound world. His stock-in-trade substitutions of the sixth degree of the chord for the 5th, harmonic false relations, soaringly high treble parts, insistent imitation, melodic outlines of unusual intervals, and particularly his love of burying plainchant melodies deep within the choral texture, are devices that can be found in many mid-Tudor composers. But no other composer uses combinations of these devices as strikingly or as memorably as Sheppard. His minimalistic method of wilfully chipping away at the same melodic motifs is the very antithesis of seamless polyphony. Sheppard wants you to hear what he’s up to. His huge musical arches are anything but divine. You can hear, even feel, them being built around you. And they are decorated with designs that more resemble improvised cartoons than carefully sculpted drawings. This is humanistic music through and through."

Offline San Antonio

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #9 on: October 22, 2017, 03:55:57 AM »


Rose Consort and Claire Wilinson perform Tallis, Byrd, Tomkins and Tye. There is a sort of composure to the way Clair Wilkinson and The Rose Consort of Viols make music, which I love.  Wilkinson is good, excellent, with the poetry: the articulation, and the colours in her voice, the strength of the tone she makes especially in lower registers, make the music sound as though it's meaningful and as though it matters. This IMO makes her a great vocalist, and she's got a tangy regional accent to boot, which makes the singing style sound more "authentic." . Rose Consort are distinguished not least because of the balance, the taut timbre and a certain calmness and nobility in their interpretations. There's a hushed intensity about the performances, and a strong sense of collaboration, which for me makes this a powerful recording.

Claire Wilkinson is a wonderful singer.  Along with her work in the early music area, she has recorded one of the best "Pie Jesu" solos from the Durufle Requiem.

Offline Biffo

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #10 on: October 22, 2017, 05:39:32 AM »


John Sheppard is not as well known as the others mentioned in this thread, but he deserves mentioning. 

This is a wonderful album, I bought it recently as a lossless download from Hyperion.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #11 on: October 22, 2017, 08:51:25 AM »
I don't know that Hyperion recording. David Wulston with The Clerkes of Oxenford was a great champion of Sheppard, and I think his recordings of it, at least the ones I know, are very beautiful. I say "the ones I know" because I've never heard the late one he made for Proudsound, with music by Tye and Sheppard.

Apart from that, I just saw on Spotify that The Edinburgh Cathedral Choir have released a Sheppard CD, I'll check it out because I thought that their Taverner was outstanding.
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Offline Jeffrey Smith

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #12 on: October 22, 2017, 08:56:30 AM »
There seem to be a bunch of Sheppard recordings listed on Amazon.  The only ones I have are by the Tallis Scholars and Stile Antico.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #13 on: October 22, 2017, 09:21:12 AM »
Amazingly this BBC interview with Wulstan is available still, at least in the UK

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01scxdg

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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #14 on: October 24, 2017, 06:16:05 AM »
Claire Wilkinson is a wonderful singer.  Along with her work in the early music area, she has recorded one of the best "Pie Jesu" solos from the Durufle Requiem.



In her other English music CD with Rose Consort, Adoramus Te, there is possibly the most moving use of vibrato that I've ever heard, used sparingly and expressively, it creates a sense of great vulnerability. Eg in Byrd's song O Silly Soul.

One reason I'm posting about it is that the effect is completely ruined by the spotify transfer!
« Last Edit: October 24, 2017, 07:12:42 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline San Antonio

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #15 on: October 24, 2017, 06:27:13 AM »


In her other English music CD with Rose Consort, Adoramus Te, there is possibly the most moving use of vibrato that I've ever heard, used sparingly and expressively, it creates a sense of great vulnerability. Eg in Byrd's song O Silly Soul.

One reason I'm posting an out it is that the effect is completely ruined by the spotify transfer!

The main reason I love her solo in the Durufle Requiem is because of her very minimal use of vibrato. 

Offline San Antonio

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #16 on: October 24, 2017, 07:10:02 AM »
Off-topic but relevant to our recent discussion about Clare Wilkinson - the recording of the Duruflé Requiem, is this one:



Wilkinson, Clare | Herford, Henry | Dawson, Catherine | Williams, Mark | Trinity College Choir, Cambridge | Marlow, Richard

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #17 on: October 25, 2017, 12:12:50 PM »


I think it was in 1974 that The Hilliard Ensemble produced this their first record, an anthology of English songs from the reign of Henry VII and Henry VIII, with The New London Consort. Composers such as Fayrfax, Cornysh and Sheryngham.

I am bowled over by the passion, the refinement and the sense of simplicity. And by the balance - not dominated by the countertenor David James - the dynamic control and the impeccable ensemble.

I suppose your first recording must be a special life-event. Hilliard give that impression here, by their intensity, their fervour and the fact that it sounds like they're happy, flourishing, making the music together.
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Offline San Antonio

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #18 on: October 25, 2017, 12:29:18 PM »


I think it was in 1974 that The Hilliard Ensemble produced this their first record, an anthology of English songs from the reign of Henry VII and Henry VIII, with The New London Consort. Composers such as Fayrfax, Cornysh and Sheryngham.

I am bowled over by the passion, the refinement and the sense of simplicity. And by the balance - not dominated by the countertenor David James - the dynamic control and the impeccable ensemble.

I suppose your first recording must be a special life-event. Hilliard give that impression here, by their intensity, their fervour and the fact that it sounds like they're happy, flourishing, making the music together.

Yep, that's a good one.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Early English Vocal Music
« Reply #19 on: October 25, 2017, 09:53:42 PM »
Hilliard began their career in 1974 with a recording of early English songs, and they ended their career with the same sort of music 40 years later with a release called Transeamus.



Different line up. And I don't hear the same freshness as I heard in the 1974. I hear nuance and intensity though. One of the reviewers on Amazon uses a word which seems spot on for Hilliard's later style - delicate.  That combination of rapt delicacy makes, for example, John Plumer's songs really magical things.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2017, 11:56:45 PM by Mandryka »
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