Instrumental Elizabethans

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Program: #18-32   Air Date: Jul 30, 2018

John Dowland in consort, William Byrd and John Bull, and a look at the “Elizabethan Avant Garde."

I. Aeternum: Music of the Elizabethan Avant Garde (LeStrange Viols). Olde Focus CD FCR912.

LeStrange Viols presents a second disc for Olde Focus Recordings: an exploration of a "Booke of In Nomines and Other Solfainge Songs," known by its shelfmark in the British Library as Add. MS 31390. From the 135-piece collection LeStrange has selected twenty-six compositions, many of which are recorded here for the first time. Some of these works reflect the "hottest new releases" of 1578 (when the manuscript was copied) while others are "golden oldies" from the first half of the 16th century.

From Early Music America: LeStrange Viols is a relatively new ensemble, having come together in 2014 to record their debut album, a modern premiere of eclectic, experimental consort music by the 17th-century composer William Cranford. While that album focused on the music of a single composer, here they explore the consort works notated within a single manuscript: London, British Library, Add. MS 31390. Entitled “A Booke of In Nomines and Other Solfainge Songs of V, VI, VII, & VIII Pts for Voyces or Instrumentes,” it contains more than 135 compositions copied in the mid- to late 16th century. The pieces range from (largely untexted) Magnificats, motets, and anthems to French, Italian, and English secular music and more than 60 instrumental works. It is clear that the manuscript was meant to be performed from, because it is notated in table-book format: each part is copied facing a different direction, such that the singers or players could sit around a table and see just their own part.LeStrange chose 26 of the manuscript’s works to record here. As they state, some of these were the “hottest” new pieces of their day, like those by newcomer William Byrd, while other works were the “golden oldies”: particular favorites from earlier in the 16th century, such as those by John Taverner or John Sheppard. Regardless of date, however, the pieces reflect a conglomeration of styles, textures, and techniques. Some are simple, singable, and popular in style, like the French chansons by Janequin and Clemens non Papa. Others are reminiscent of the Cranford album in their rhythmic and harmonic complexities; listen, for example, to the setting of Spes nostra by Osbert Parsley, which has a five-beat cantus firmus, or the In nomine by Picforth, in which each instrument plays only one type of rhythmic value throughout.

Peppered throughout are the delightful English cross-relations, and LeStrange doesn’t shy away from accentuating them, adding a delicious crunch to many of these works. In fact, they don’t shy away from much; they play with attention to dynamics and a lovely sense of phrase, each voice swelling and fading according to its own structure but always with a careful ear toward group cohesion and overall rhetorical gesture. They’re not afraid to have fun, though; the Picforth is delightful here with the cantus firmus bowed and all other voices plucking, and Christopher Tye’s setting of the In nomine ‘Crye’ is taken at a peppy tempo, allowing the various “cryes” to bounce frenetically from player to player.

As befits the manuscript’s title, a good third of the album is settings of the In nomine, but they are wonderfully interspersed among a variety of other types of pieces. Particular standouts are the album’s opening In Aeternum by William Mundy, Byrd’s O salutaris hostia, and the setting of Browning my dere by Clement Woodcock (perhaps the manuscript’s scribe); so too are the Clemens non Papa chanson and the Taverner In nomine, which have si placet voices unique to this manuscript. This is an album that would be highly recommended simply for paying unique and careful attention to works in their original context. Fortunately, LeStrange lives up to the promise of their first album, treating us to a fascinating musical experience as well.

In Æternum a6
02 In nomine a5
In nomine a5
03 Quemadmodum a6
Quemadmodum a6
04 A Phancy a5
A Phancy a5
05 In nomine a6
In nomine a6
06 Esperants a5
Esperants a5
07 In nomine #1 a7
In nomine #1 a7
08 In nomine #2 a7
In nomine #2 a7
09 In nomine 'Crye' a5
In nomine 'Crye' a5
10 O salutaris hostia a6
O salutaris hostia a6
11 Yf man in care a6
Yf man in care a6
12 Lawdes Deo a5
Lawdes Deo a5
13 In nomine #1 a5
In nomine #1 a5
14 Qual iniqua mia sorte a5
Qual iniqua mia sorte a5
15 In nomine a4
In nomine a4
16 O lux beata Trinitas a5
O lux beata Trinitas a5
17 Or vien ca, vien, m'amye a5
Or vien ca, vien, m'amye a5
18 Spes nostra a5
Spes nostra a5
19 Dum transisset Sabbatum a6
Dum transisset Sabbatum a6
20 Browning my dere a5
Browning my dere a5
21 In nomine a5
In nomine a5
22 Frisque et gaillard a5
Frisque et gaillard a5
23 O sacrum convivium a5
O sacrum convivium a5
24 In nomine #3 a5
In nomine #3 a5
25 Si de beaucoup a5
Si de beaucoup a5
26 Meli Bavari a6
Meli Bavari a6

II. Parthenia (Catalina Vicens, harpsichord & virginals/Rebeka Ruso, viols). Carpe Diem CD 16298.

CD16298 Parthenia
PARTHENIA is a collection of pieces for harpsichord and virginal composed by the three famous composers Byrd, Bull and Gibbons, printed in London in 1613 and dedicated to the marriage of Maria Stuart and King Frederick V.
The Chilenian harpsichordist Catalina Vicens celebrates the 400-year anniversary of this unique edition of English renaissance keyboard music on her debut album. To make this already diverse collection even more colorful, she uses not less than six different instruments, 3 of which are 17th c. originals. Enjoy this delicate boquet of early keyboard pieces played on virginals, harpsichords, spinettino and Muselaar, just as the royal couple may have enjoyed it for relaxation and amusement in good company.
From Gramophone: Given its historical importance and the fact that it only takes around an hour to perform complete, it is surprising that Parthenia – published in 1613 as ‘the first musicke that ever was printed for the Virginalls’, and celebrating the high status of English keyboard-writing of the time in 21 pieces (mostly pavans and galliards) by its three greatest masters – has not had more recordings. Colin Tilney’s Pye LP (1/69) has not been reissued, while CDs by Gary Cooper (Devorguilla) and David Ponsford (RiverRun) look hard to get (I’ve never seen either), meaning that this attractively presented debut solo recording by the Chilean-born harpsichordist Catalina Vicens is well placed to make a mark.

I hope it will. Vicens’s playing is unhurried, even in galliards, but she maintains the music’s spring and momentum through eloquently spread chords and rhythmic inflections; her timing of the tumbling flourishes that climax certain sections brings both controlled and effective releases of tension. And if you sense that her sympathies lie more with the richness and mellowness of Byrd and Gibbons than with the fidgety virtuosity of Bull, her fingers are certainly up to the task of carrying off Bull’s excitable passagework, the only hint of discomfort coming in the rampant left-hand semiquaver patterns of the St Thomas Wake Galliard.
The sound of this CD is also a treat. Vicens uses no fewer than six different original instruments or copies from the Neumeyer-Junghanns-Tracey Collection in Bad Krozingen, including a sparkily metallic Ruckers harpsichord, a sweetly bell-like Ruckers double-virginal (though its rattly ‘arpichordum’ stop is brought to bear in the disc’s final track) and a delectable little Italian 4ft ‘spinettino’. Two of the Gibbons pieces are performed in the scoring with viol ad lib proposed in a later edition, but although Rebeka Rusò adds her own fine musicianship to the mix, this is ultimately Vicens’s project, and a worthy one too.

William Byrd (c.1540-1623):
Pavana Sr. Wm. Petre. 
Galiardo (Sr. Wm. Petre) 
Galiardo Mrs. Mary Brownlow. 
Pavana The Earle of Salisbury
Galiardo (The Earle of Salisbury). 
Galiardo Secundo (The Earle of Salisbury).
Dr. John Bull (c.1562-1628): 
Pavana St. Thomas Wake. 
Galiardo St. Thomas Wake 
Orlando Gibbons (c.1583-1625):
Fantazia of foure parts. 
The Lord of Salisbury his Pavin. 
Galiardo (The Lord of Salisbury). 
The Queenes Command 

III. Lachrimae: John Dowland (Nigel North, lute/Les Voix humaines). Atma CD  ACD2 2761.

British lutenist Nigel North joins viol consort Les Voix humaines for Lachrimae, a new recording of John Dowland’s 1604 compositions set for lute and viols. Passionate pavans, galiards, and almands evoke the tears referred to in the title.
Replete with many musical effects, dissonances and suspensions, the same melancholic subjects reappear throughout Dowland’s compositions: the agonies of the soul, night, and darkness. This “tear” motif first appeared in the pavan Lachrimae for lute and served as the basis for seven “passionate” pavans in the 1604 collection recorded on this new album.
From  This is the second of two discs by British-American lutenist Nigel North covering the complete lute music of John Dowland, the lutenist Shakespeare would likely have thought of when he thought of the lute. The division of pieces between the two discs is logical, with Dowland's most famous instrumental work, the Lachrimae Pavan, included here along with a group of other pieces that are related to it in some way. The Lachrimae Pavan lives up to its name, but along with Dowland's self-professed melancholy came a more meditative quality; he seemed to enjoy taking a musical idea and working on it some more, even over and above the penchant of his age for reusing musical material and turning vocal into instrumental works. The "alternative version" of the Lachrimae Pavan, track 17, includes divisions or variations probably not by Dowland, but it is still interesting to hear in this context, and the final Semper Dowland Semper Dolens (Always Dowland, Always Sad) also reworks the Lachrimae idea. These works are joined by other pavans, lute versions of sad songs, a funeral piece, and Dowland's Adieu, and even the few faster-paced galliards have a sober tone. North's readings are not lugubrious but rather tap into the reflective quality of Dowland's music; the contents of the disc are sober, to be sure, but North conveys the feeling of a master musician at work in the chambers of a noble patron, setting high standards of skill, refinement, and imagination. The program makes sense on its own as a Dowland lute disc for those who may not want the set of two.   
  • 1 Captaine Piper his Galiard  02:56
  • 2 Lachrimæ Antiquæ 04:40
  • 3 Coranto Were every thought an eye 01:45
  • 4 The Earle of Essex Galiard  02:04
  • 5 Lachrimæ Antiquæ Novæ 04:10
  • 6 M. Henry Noell his Galiard 02:02
  • 7 Lachrimæ Gementes 03:50
  • 8 M. John Langtons Pavan 04:06
  • 9 M. George Whitehead his Almand 02:25
  • 10 Lachrimæ Tristes  05:01
  • 11 Dowland’s Adew for Master Oliver Cromwell  04:10
  • 12 Lachrimæ Coactæ 04:03
  • 13 Lachrimæ Pavan pour luth 04:32
  • 14 Galiard to Lachrimæ, pour luth 02:54
  • 15 Lachrimæ Amantis 04:22
  • 16 Sir John Souch his Galiard 01:27
  • 17 Lachrimæ Veræ 04:35

Composer Info

William Mundy, Picforth, John Taverner, Edward Blankes, Philip Van Wilder, Robert Parsons, Christopher Tye, William Byrd (c.1540-1623), Mallorie, Jacquet de Berchem, Brewster, Clément Janequin, Osbert Parsley, John Sheppard, Clement Woodcock, Jacobus Clemens non Papa, Thomas Tallis, Nicholas Strogers, Philip Van Wilder, Giovanni Croce, Dr. John Bull (c.1562-1628), Orlando Gibbons (c.1583-1625), John Dowland ,

CD Info

CD FCR912, Carpe Diem CD 16298, CD ACD2 2761.