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An Emerald in a Work of Gold - Music from the Dow Partbooks

Mundy / Marian Consort / Mccleery
Release Date: 05/14/2013 
Label:  Delphian   Catalog #: 34115   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  William MundyNicholas StrogersRobert MalloryNathaniel Giles,   ... 
Performer:  Rory McCleeryGwendolen [Soprano Vocal] MartinEmma WalsheJohn Bryan
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rose Consort of Viols
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

AN EMERALD IN A WORK OF GOLD: Music from the Dow Partbooks Rory McCleery, cond; Marian Consort; Rose Consort of Viols DELPHIAN 34115 (72:49 Text and Translation)

Selections by MUNDY, STROGERS, MALLORIE, GILES, WHITE, BYRD, TYE, TALLIS, PARSONS, ANON, RUFFO, MAILLARD, VERDELOT, WILDER

The father of Robert Dow (1553–1588) was a member of the Merchant Taylors’ Company, and a collector of tonnage and poundage—that is to say, kinds of royal tax—for the Read more port of London. This made him an important and wealthy man, and as was often the case, sons benefited from their commercial fathers’ prosperity by being sent to study at one or another famed university. Dow went first to Corpus Christi College at Oxford for his B.A., before pursuing the study of civil law at All Souls College. He was evidently a well-thought-of young man who functioned as bursar of laws at All Souls in the 1580s.

Dow was of course also trained in music as a solid amateur. It was considered an essential skill for both sexes in the upwardly mobile middle class of Tudor England, and recorders, viols, and virginals, among other instruments, still survive from households of the period to demonstrate this. (Much the same could be said of the upper class, with the added cachet of the collector being able to indulge their whims. According to a 1547 inventory, that rapacious autocrat Henry VIII owned 25 viols, 72 flutes, and 76 recorders, 18 of which were inlaid with ivory.) Although no direct evidence survives that the five partbooks Dow gathered in the final decade of his life were intended for a viol consort of he and his friends, that’s the most likely explanation for their existence. Not that this limits their performance today to viols alone, not when music of the time was understood as meat for adaptation by composers, arrangers, and performers alike.

And Dow dearly loved music, which accounts for the title of this disc. It comes from the Ecclesiastes quote (“As a signet of an emerald in a work of gold: so is the melody of music with pleasant and moderate wine”) that he appended to one of the compositions he copied out. To another, one of several by the estimable Robert Parsons, he wrote what has become the famous martial-like epitaph on that composer’s life: “Qui tantus primo Parsone in flore fuisti/Quantus in autumno ni morerere fores!” (Parsons, you who were so great in the springtime of life/How great you would have been in the autumn, had not death intervened!) Death ironically did as much for Dow in his 30s, but the partbooks survived, over 130 pieces, sacred and secular, in Latin and English, motets, consort songs and fantasias, all in excellent shape. They are an example of extraordinary penmanship (Dow taught calligraphy at Oxford), and sound editorial transmission. A few are unicums, such as Nicholas Strogers’s Non me vincat, Deus meus , heard on this release. Many are better known, such as Mundy’s beautiful Sive vigilem and Byrd’s O Lord, how vain , and they all supply a testament to the man’s fine taste.

Dow was in fact very fond of Byrd, including many motets and songs by the composer in his partbooks. This collection, however, limits itself to only two pieces by Byrd, the aforementioned consort song and La verginella —a setting of a canto from Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso that proved so popular it was utilized by at least 19 composers. Limiting itself in this fashion, the Marian Consort also leaves itself free to select from a range of other interesting and sometimes quirky material Dow often favored. Parsons gets his innings with the sumptuous motet Retribue servo tuo and an Ave Maria , each of whose first six phrases begins one note higher than the last in its topmost part. (The vocal weighting adopted by the ensemble emphasizes the disparity between the augmented discantus and the rest.) Christopher Tye’s In Nomine lacks the fancy of Gibbons’s viol consort works in a similar vein, but the Miserere by one “Mallorie” employs syncopated off-beats between the parts to subvert all expectations of following its dance rhythm—as though, like the famous dance scene in Don Giovanni , a plethora of groups were performing in different rhythms simultaneously.

The two consorts on this record, vocal and viol, combine at times to form yet a third group for motets and consort songs (Strongers’s A doleful deadly pang , Tallis’s O salustaris hostia ). Individually and together, they provide a real treat to listeners. I’ve praised Rory McCleery and his Marian Consort’s initial release ( Virgo Benedicta on Delphian 34086; Fanfare 35:4) for their ability “to sculpt text through dynamics and phrasing,” and so it proves here once again. They strive for a musically diverse, expressively interesting sound, rather than one that is expertly balanced yet static. Having only seven members paradoxically allows them a great degree of control over their tonal resources. As for the Rose Consort, I don’t much care for their tone, which I once described in these pages as wiry, especially when compared to Fretwork’s dark warmth and the rich variety of Phantasm; but I do like their rhythmic clarity, and ability to keep things moving along. These qualities help make the Tallis selection I mentioned earlier one of the highlights of the disc for me, though it helps to have a soloist with a sweet timbre like soprano Emma Walshe singing as well.

In short, this is an excellent disc. I can’t say what Robert Dow would have made of these performances, but I find it a source of varied and continuing delight. Recommended.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sive vigilem by William Mundy
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; England 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 2 Minutes 36 Secs. 
2.
A doleful deadly pang by Nicholas Strogers
Performer:  Rory McCleery ()
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rose Consort of Viols
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; England 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 1 Minutes 39 Secs. 
3.
In Nomine a 5 No. 2 by Nicholas Strogers
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rose Consort of Viols
Period: Renaissance 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 3 Minutes 7 Secs. 
4.
Miserere à 5 by Robert Mallory
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rose Consort of Viols
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 1 Minutes 49 Secs. 
5.
Vestigia mea dirige, motet by Nathaniel Giles
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Period: Baroque 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 5 Minutes 31 Secs. 
6.
In nomine à 5 by Robert White
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rose Consort of Viols
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; England 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 3 Minutes 15 Secs. 
7.
O Lord, how vain, sacred song for voice & 4 viols by William Byrd
Performer:  Gwendolen [Soprano Vocal] Martin ()
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rose Consort of Viols
Period: Renaissance 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 4 Minutes 54 Secs. 
8.
Justus es, Domine, motet by Robert White
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Period: Renaissance 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 8 Minutes 0 Secs. 
9.
In Nomine "Follow me" by Christopher Tye
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rose Consort of Viols
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; England 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 2 Minutes 57 Secs. 
10.
O salutaris hostia by Thomas Tallis
Performer:  Emma Walshe ()
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rose Consort of Viols
Period: Renaissance 
Written: after 1559; England 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 3 Minutes 3 Secs. 
11.
Retribue servo tuo, for chorus by Robert Parsons
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 8 Minutes 35 Secs. 
12.
Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire (tune "Veni Creator") (New English Hymnal No. 138) by Traditional
Performer:  Emma Walshe ()
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rose Consort of Viols
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 3 Minutes 19 Secs. 
13.
La Gamba for bass & soprano by Vincenzo Ruffo
Performer:  John Bryan (Viol)
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Period: Renaissance 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 1 Minutes 24 Secs. 
14.
La verginella by William Byrd
Performer:  Gwendolen [Soprano Vocal] Martin ()
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rose Consort of Viols
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 2 Minutes 16 Secs. 
15.
Dum transisset sabbatum, responsory by Anonymous
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Period: Medieval 
Written: Europe 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 3 Minutes 26 Secs. 
16.
Ascendo ad Patrem meum, motet by Jean Maillard
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rose Consort of Viols
Period: Renaissance 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 2 Minutes 57 Secs. 
17.
Non me vincat, Deus meus, motet by Nicholas Strogers
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Period: Renaissance 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 4 Minutes 21 Secs. 
18.
Je fille quant Dieu by Philip Van Wilder
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rose Consort of Viols
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 1 Minutes 20 Secs. 
19.
Pour vous aymer by Philip Van Wilder
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rose Consort of Viols
Period: Renaissance 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 1 Minutes 48 Secs. 
20.
Ave Maria by Robert Parsons
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 1560s; England 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 4 Minutes 12 Secs. 
21.
Madonna somm'acorto, madrigal for 5 voices (attributed) by Phillippe Verdelot
Conductor:  Rory McCleery
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rose Consort of Viols
Period: Renaissance 
Venue:  Chapel of All Souls College, Oxford, Eng 
Length: 2 Minutes 9 Secs. 

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