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A Candle To The Glorious Sun - Milton, Peerson


Release Date: 10/14/2008 
Label:  Regent   Catalog #: 268   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  John MiltonMartin PeersonAnonymousWilliam Daman,   ... 
Conductor:  Sarah MacDonald
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Fantastic to have this very rare repertoire and performed so well.

In the same way that we have in recent times come to realize that the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre is not just Shakespeare we are now gradually understanding that the music of that period is not just Byrd and Dowland. Other composers, fine ones but little known, were very active and two such were John Milton, father of the great poet and Martin Peerson. Although contemporaries they are also contrasting figures as we shall see.

Until now I had only known John Milton through a rather dull madrigal he had submitted to Thomas Morley for the collection ‘The Triumphs of Oriana’. Peerson curiously did not contribute although some pieces by him
Read more can be found in the slightly later ‘FitzWilliam Virginal Book’.

John Milton has never featured so strongly before on a CD but Martin Peerson has had his moments in the sun with two discs I shall mention. It is therefore good that Milton has the bulk of the playing time on the present CD. There is a good reason for this as Richard Rastall explains in his very interesting booklet notes. Peerson obviously preferred “to write for voices and viols in a verse style … his ‘full’ vocal music being only a small proportion of his total output”. Rastall goes on “Milton only wrote one consort song, his output otherwise being ‘full’”. He sums things up by saying that the recording “presents the entire corpus of ‘full’ sacred songs by Milton and Peerson, but is numerically unrepresentative of the two composers, Peerson being by far the more prolific but in the verse style”.

Peerson was quite a versatile composer. As well as the keyboard pieces mentioned above there is a series of fifteen unpublished Latin motets. They were recorded in 2004 by Ex Cathedra under Jeremy Skidmore (Hyperion CDA67490 – see review). There are also some consort songs. The source of the music on the disc under review is mostly from Sir William Leighton’s ‘The Teares and Lamentations of a Sorrowful Soul’, published in 1614. This was a collection of settings of metrical psalm texts and verse paraphrases by twenty-one composers. Some like Gibbons and John Bull are well-known; others like Robert Kindersley are unknown. Other sources include Myrell’s ‘Trinitiae Remedium’ and Ravenscroft’s ‘Whole Book of Psalms’.

It may surprise you to know that three pieces on this new disc have been recorded before and that on a now unavailable Collins Classics disc performed by the Wren Baroque Soloists ’Martin Peerson Private Musicke’ (14372). The pieces in question are “Who let me at thy footstool fall”, ‘O God, that no time dost despise’ and (a typical Protestant poem this) ‘Lord, bridle my desires’. On the Collins disc there are only five performers. In his most useful notes for this new disc Richard Rastall who is responsible for the editions and reconstructions of all of these pieces comments: “The vocal music of Milton and Peerson was probably all for domestic use … all metrical Psalters were, and its primary purpose was certainly for devotional use in the household”. Later he adds “Both composers evidently wrote mainly or exclusively for the household market”. The problem is that the Selwyn College Choir consist of almost thirty singers so the idea of domestic music-making is lost. Also it should be remembered that these pieces were neither performed nor meant as anthems for cathedral use - although they may be so used nowadays.

I love the fresh-voiced sound of this choir very much but I am very pleased that the booklet contains all of the texts as their diction is far from always clear. They are not helped, especially by Milton, whose ‘old-fashioned imitative counterpoint’ rather clogs the textures … and size of the choir, also does not help. This is not such a problem however in the more homophonic metrical psalms. Incidentally these originally often ran to more than twelve or so verses. You will be relieved to know that here we have only a handful, just to offer a taste. For example in Psalm 102 we are given verses 1, 8 and 12.

I would have liked more dynamic shading between the verses or dynamics built into the lines and their rising and falling. Surely Sarah MacDonald has missed a trick here. There are occasions when the unrelenting mezzo-forte becomes wearing.

Still, you might think, these are minor gripes. It is after all fantastic to have this very rare repertoire made available to us and performed better than one can ever imagine it was at the time. The recording in a fine medieval church captures the acoustic well and offers an accurate balance - realistic and clear.

-- Gary Higginson, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
O woe is me for thee by John Milton
Conductor:  Sarah MacDonald
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: circa 1616; England 
2.
If ye love me by John Milton
Conductor:  Sarah MacDonald
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
Notes: Arranger: Richard Rastall. 
3.
Psalm 27 by John Milton
Conductor:  Sarah MacDonald
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
4.
I am the resurrection and the life by John Milton
Conductor:  Sarah MacDonald
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: circa 1616; England 
5.
O God, that no time dost despise by Martin Peerson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1614; England 
Length: 6 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Richard Rastall.
: Sarah MacDonald. 
6.
Psalm 134 by Martin Peerson
Conductor:  Sarah MacDonald
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
7.
Lord, ever bridle my desires by Martin Peerson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1614; England 
Length: 4 Minutes 22 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Richard Rastall.
: Sarah MacDonald. 
8.
O let me at thy footstool fall by Martin Peerson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1614; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 59 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Richard Rastall.
: Sarah MacDonald. 
9.
York by Anonymous
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1650; Scotland 
Length: 2 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Notes: Arrangers: John Milton; Richard Rastall.
: Sarah MacDonald. 
10.
Southwell by William Daman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1579; England 
Length: 1 Minutes 22 Secs. 
Notes: Arrangers: Martin Peerson; Richard Rastall.
: Sarah MacDonald. 
11.
Who will rise up with me?...But when I said by Martin Peerson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
Length: 2 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Richard Rastall.
: Sarah MacDonald. 
12.
Norwich by Anonymous
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1563 
Length: 1 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Notes: Arrangers: John Milton; Richard Rastall.
: Sarah MacDonald. 
13.
O had I wings like to a dove by John Milton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 7 Minutes 53 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Richard Rastall.
: Sarah MacDonald. 
14.
If that a sinner's sighes by John Milton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Length: 3 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Richard Rastall.
: Sarah MacDonald. 
15.
Thou God of might by John Milton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1614; England 
Length: 4 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Richard Rastall.
: Sarah MacDonald. 
16.
O Lord behold my miseries by John Milton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1614; England 
Length: 4 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Richard Rastall.
: Sarah MacDonald. 
17.
How doth the holy city...She weepeth continually by John Milton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: circa 1616; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Richard Rastall.
: Sarah MacDonald. 
18.
When David heard that Absolom was slaine by John Milton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Selwyn College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: circa 1616; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Richard Rastall.
: Sarah MacDonald. 

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