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Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
TIME THY MUSICKE TO THY HART: Tudor & Jacobean Music for Private Devotion
Stile Antico; Fretwork
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU 807554 (66:45
Text and Translation)
TOMKINS, AMNER, TAVERNER, RAMSEY, TALLIS, PARSONS, BROWNE, CROCE,
DOWLAND, CAMPION, BYRD, GIBBONS
I don’t agree with Matthew O’Donovan’s premise that the places where 16th-century English music have been preserved—the cathedrals, the courts, wealthiest households, and colleges—tend to create a biased view where “the music-making of the ‘ordinary people’ has remained more obscure.” It seems to me that early-music listeners have plenty of options when it comes to buying albums of Tudor music aimed at the ordinary people of the day: solo lute and keyboard music, lute songs, consort songs, and viol consort pieces of the period, not to mention the occasional disc of music to accompany plays by the likes of Chapman, Jonson, and Shakespeare, or bawdy broadsides intended to be belted out as loudly as possible in a neighborhood tavern.
Where I do agree with O’Donovan is that Tudor music for domestic religious observance hasn’t received nearly as much attention as that intended for formal devotional use, whether in Roman Catholic or Anglican rites. Much of it shares a stylistic reaction of the times against the ostentatious, richly rewarding contrapuntal display of the earlier part of the century, as well as a preference for simple textures suitable for nonprofessional use and one-note-one-syllable settings. The result here is a varied and interesting program, tending more to severity and self-reflection than joy and praise (Tomkins’s
O Praise the Lord
From Profound Centre of My Heart
to one side).
Make no mistake, there are musical delights to be gleaned from this release. I could wish that in building such a program Stile Antico had dug more into material that wasn’t previously recorded, but there’s much to be said for the content known generally from previous recordings and live concerts, such as Tallis’s beautiful
Purge Me, O Lord
How Are the Mighty Fall’n
, and Tomkins’s rapt
When David Heard
. Among the less-often encountered are the Croce and Amner, and all of it makes for excellent listening.
Stile Antico is a young SATB ensemble of 12 musicians who were heard at a choral competition by an official from the Harmonia Mundi label. They were signed to a contract, and have produced six albums to date. I saw them two years ago at the Boston Early Music Festival, and was delighted with their range of colors that didn’t strive regularly for a uniform timbral blend, as much as for a subtle highlighting of parts when required. An example on this album can be heard in the repeat of the phrase “And suddenly” in Amner’s
O Ye Little Flock
, or the subtle exchange of leadership between the vocal divisions without interrupting the music’s flow in Dowland’s
I Shame at My Unworthiness
. On the other hand, was anything ever sung so sweetly even and properly balanced as this version of Campion’s
Never Weather-Beaten Sail
? Yet the textures remain clear. No part is submerged, and the overall effect is as jewel-like and transparent as one could wish.
With Fretwork’s contribution we have an embarrassment of riches. Its dark sound and restrained phrasing is a solid fit for such pieces as Parsons’s pair of
. It fits well in accompaniment to Stile Antico in such pieces as Gibbons’s
See, See, the Word Is Incarnate
, and for Benedict Hymas, who has the only solo on the CD (in effect, a consort song), Byrd’s
Why Do I Use My Paper, Ink And Pen?
The engineering is well judged, with the singers’ space or the recording equipment moved to provide a different rate or reverberation depending on the music.
When David Heard
has more of a cathedral sound, for instance, than much of the rest, but all of it is closely miked and balanced to good effect.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
The British vocal ensemble Stile Antico is young in age and accordingly fresh in its approach to programming, a trend exemplified in this latest release of works from sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. Here the group focuses on the lesser-known but fertile repertoire of sacred music whose purpose was “private or domestic devotion” — that is, for types of worship outside the formal church setting. While the composers’ names are certainly familiar, the music tends to be texturally simpler and more straightforward than we usually hear in their finest church works. Certainly “simpler” should not be taken for less interesting, involving or exciting. Listen to Tomkins’ “O praise the Lord” or John Amner’s verse anthem “O ye little flock” or Orlando Gibbons’ own verse anthem “See, see, the Word is incarnate” and try to remain unmoved by their sheer beauty and fullness of expression. Exceptions to simple can be found in the melodic turns and dramatic devices of John Browne’s remarkable carol “Jesu, mercy, how may this be?” or in the striking harmonic richness of Robert Ramsey’s “How are the mighty fall’n” and in Amner’s “A stranger here.” And there’s no more perfect depiction of words in music than Thomas Tomkins’ unsurpassed setting of “When David heard.” As an ensemble, the conductorless twelve-member Stile Antico prefers a sound that celebrates the fact that it’s made of individual voices, and thus allows us to hear inside the group — an approach that quite possibly more closely represents the kind of sound that the sixteenth-century singers would have produced in their homes and private chapels. The participation of the superb viol consort Fretwork on six of the fifteen tracks enhances the program’s musical authenticity and adds yet another layer of vibrant color.
– David Vernier, Listen Magazine [Spring 2012]
Works on This Recording
O ye little flock by John Amner
Written: by 1615; England
In Nomine à 4 by John Taverner
Written: 16th Century; England
Purge me, O Lord by Thomas Tallis
Written: 16th Century; England
A stranger here by John Amner
In nomine à 4 no 1 by Robert Parsons
In nomine à 4 no 2 by Robert Parsons
Featured Sound Samples
Jesu, mercy, how may this be? (Browne)
Never weather-beaten saile more willing bent to shore (Campion)
See, see, the word is incarnate (Gibbons)
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
A nice collection of works from a time long ago February 15, 2012
By Gwendolynne Currie (San Antonio, TX) See All My Reviews
"This is a very nice collection of works that reminds me that we need to go back and revive some of the things from the past and appreciate them once again. This style of music should be rendered and enjoyed in traditional worship settings as well as the familiar and public/common environs. This collection produces a very soothing and spiritually calming aura."