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The Liberation of the Gothic / Schmelzer, Graindelavoix


Release Date: 09/14/2018 
Label:  Glossa   Catalog #: 32115  
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

With The Liberation of the Gothic, Björn Schmelzer and Graindelavoix deliver an imaginative reading of music by two English composers active at the end of the fifteenth century, the towering figure of John Browne and the slightly later and much less well- known Thomas Ashwell (or Ashewell). Björn Schmelzer draws a vivid connection between the florid polyphony of these two composers and the freedom of structure and ornament found in late Gothic architecture, notably that of the fourteenth- century Lady Chapel built as part of the “Ship of the Fens”, Ely Cathedral. Performing Ashwell’s intricately-woven Missa Ave Maria – a landmark in polyphony – Schmelzer and his Antwerp-based ensemble echo, in the individual freedom accorded to Read more these virtuoso singers, the rich ornamentation of foliage, seemingly in constant motion, decorating the walls of Ely’s Lady Chapel. The singers add their own “coloratura”, an approach which continues to be central to Björn Schmelzer’s interpretation of medieval and Renaissance works, as have been appearing on Glossa for a decade and a half now. In his booklet essay Schmelzer refers to the British writer and artist John Ruskin describing the “liberation of the Gothic” as also concerning “the workers, who were not submitted to repetitive, mechanical work but invested in continuous and infinite variation.” Acting as surrounding pillars to Ashwell’s Mass on this recording are two of the extended motets, much favoured by early Tudor English polyphonists – and encountered in the famous Eton Choirbook manuscript: John Browne’s Stabat mater and his first setting of the Salve regina. Read less

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 The magnificent enthusiasm of English Gothic music September 21, 2018 By Dean Frey See All My Reviews "Bjorn Schmelzer brings his speculative musical-historical approach to English music of the late 15th and early 16th century, once again combined with the highest levels of both music and recording technology, and the result is stunning. The fine singers of the Belgian choir Graindelavoix completely won me over to this music, even though I had been immersed in the less ornate but still moving (and more or less contemporary) music from the Peterhouse Partbooks, as sung by Scott Metcalfe's Blue Heron. One of Schmelzer's starting points is a short video by Paul Binski, Professor of the History of Medieval Art at Cambridge University, who discusses the amazing art and architecture, sadly defaced by iconoclasts during the Reformation, of Ely Cathedral's Lady Chapel. Schmelzer finds in the splendour of the Lady Chapel and its impetus in Marian theology a parallel to the music of John Browne, who was born in 1480 but lived only until 1525; and Thomas Ashwell, who may have been nearly an exact contemporary, though it's possible he died as early as 1513. The "florid polyphony" of Browne and Ashwell has the same ebullient drive as the double-curved ogee arches of the Lady Chapel, and Schmelzer underlines this exuberance through his animated interpretation, which his expert choir handles with aplomb. This is what Pater meant when he said in The School of Giorgione (1873) that "All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music." Still, there's another level beyond the florid decorations, and John Ruskin touches on it in The Stones of Venice: "There are however, far nobler interests mingling, in the Gothic heart, with the rude love of decorative accumulation: a magnificent enthusiasm, which feels as if it never could do enough to reach the fulness of its ideal ; an unselfishness of sacrifice, which would rather cast fruitless labour before the altar than stand idle in the market; and, finally, a profound sympathy with the fulness and wealth of the material universe, rising out of that Naturalism whose operation we have already endeavoured to define." In the end it is the spiritual nature of both Ely Cathedral and the music of Browne and Ashwell, a deep connection to the cult of Mary. Ruskin's "magnificent enthusiasm" is evident in this marvellous disc." Report Abuse
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