Notes and Editorial Reviews
The title of this disc is taken from comments made by Thomas Morley (1557/1558-1602) concerning the behaviour of performers. In his treatise on musical practice he criticised members of church choirs for being more concerned to make their voices heard above those of their fellows, than in ensuring, by careful enunciation and more precise attention to the required notes, "…whereby to draw the hearer, as it were, in chains of gold by the ears to the consideration of holy things". However, readers of this review need have no such fear, where the behaviour of the Dunedin Consort is concerned, for their rendition of these wonderful works is exemplary. Whilst I am not religious and therefore am not drawn to the same
considerations, I am eager to hear more of this group’s recordings of similar works. I have always been struck by the power a small number of voices can produce in such repertoire and find it the most potent example of the voice as instrument, especially in works such as these that are scored for solo voices alone. So successful are these works that you never feel the lack of other instruments – on the contrary they would detract from the majesty that solo voices create.
The works on this disc are by two of the great masters of the late renaissance. William Byrd and Thomas Tallis. William Byrd (c.1540-1623) was born a Catholic and remained one all his life despite the constraints this placed upon him in an England where Elizabeth I had once again altered the official religion of the country from Catholicism to Protestantism. The three Masses he composed were all short in length so as to enable them to be used in celebrations of Mass where previous richness of ceremonial was no longer possible. They were all three published anonymously between 1592-1595. Byrd was considered as the equal of Lassus and Palestrina and his Masses are particularly outstanding in terms of their contrapuntal style as the example on this disc conclusively proves. This is music to make the hair stand on end regardless of one’s religious convictions, and for me this only adds to my listening pleasure. This Mass for five voices is the longest work on this record and Byrd’s music is also represented by some short works, organ hymns and an organ prelude. Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585) was a great influence on William Byrd and when he died Byrd wrote an elegy with a text ending with the words ‘Tallis is dead and music dies’. The three Motets by Tallis are taken from the
Cantiones, quae ab argumento sacrae vocantur, (London, 1575). In them, as with much of the music on this disc, the so-called ‘English Cadence’ makes its appearance. It is a device which sharpens the poignancy embodied within the writing, and is characteristic of music of this period. Two organ hymns by Tallis complete the disc. We are fortunate to be able to hear these wonderful works that the common man of the 16
th and 17
th Centuries would not have had access to, for it was mainly the rich and powerful who were able to hear them performed.
All the works on this disc are gems of Late Renaissance composition and are beautifully recorded and sung by this young Scottish group which has also recorded Mozart’s ‘Die Entführung aus dem Serail’ and ‘Idomeneo’. I have only two criticisms and they concern the all too brief liner notes and the far too tiny print used. On the back of the disc where the details of the contents are printed over a photo of a choir stall it is all but impossible to read.
-- Steve Arloff, MusicWeb International Read less
Works on This Recording
O nata lux de lumine by Thomas Tallis
Written: after 1559; England
O sacrum convivium by Thomas Tallis
Written: 16th Century; England
Mass for 5 Voices by William Byrd
Written: circa 1595; England
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