The English 17th century: Instrumental Releases

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Program: #20-37   Air Date: Aug 31, 2020

Lute Music of Francis Cutting, “A Consort’s Monument” with L’Acheron, and the second CD in Fretwork’s “In Nomine” series.

I. A Consort’s Monument (L’Achéron/François Joubert-Caillet). Ricercar CD RIC-413.

A Consort’s Monument Product Image

In his Musick’s Monument of 1676, Thomas Mace described in great detail numerous aspects of contemporary musical life in London. This volume evokes all the characteristics of English music, going back to the most glorious years of the Renaissance, with a particular emphasis on the repertory written for consort of viols. While his writings describe the performing practices of the time, they also provide invaluable information on instrument making, which has enabled L’Achéron to build a ‘set’ of six viols following Mace’s indications. For this new project of English music, the ensemble inaugurates a new virginal and an organ made in accordance with the famous theorist’s specifications. The programme comprises fantasias, ayres and dances by composers who brought this viol consort tradition to its peak, including Alfonso Ferrabosco, John Ward, William White, Thomas Lupo, Richard Dering, Giovanni Coperario, William Lawes, John Jenkins and Christopher Simpson.

    1. Giovanni Coperario- Fantasia II a 6 in F
    2. William Lawes- Almaine a 3 in d
    3. Claudio Monteverdi- Rimanti in pace a 5 (Terzo Libro de Madrigali, 1592)
    4. Christopher Simpson- May a 4 in a (The Monthes)
    5. Improvisation upon a Ground in B (after Christopher Simpson)
    6. Alfonso Ferrabosco II- Four-Note Pavan a 5
    7. John Ward- Fantasia VII a 6 in c
    8. William Lawes- Ayre a 6 in c
    9. Giovanni Coperario- O voi che sospirate a 5
    10. John Jenkins- Newarke Seidge a 4 in D
    11. Preludium (Improvisation) & Gray's Inn (Giovanni Coperario)
    12. John Jenkins- Fantasia III a 6 in c
    13. Tomas Lupo- Fantasia X a 6 in a
    14. John Deering- Fantasia III a 5 in a
    15. Preludium & Fortune my foe (improvisation)
    16. Alfonso Ferrabosco II- Fantasia VI a 6 in C
    17. William White- Fantasia II a 6 in d

II. Francis Cutting: Lute Music (Domenico Cerasani, lute). Brilliant Classics CD 96099.

Francis Cutting: Lute Music Product Image

The only available album dedicated to a notable musician of Elizabethan England.

By the time of Francis Cutting’s death in 1596 he had become among the best-known of English lutenists, and but by then his reputation as a lutenist and composer had reached far beyond the Howard family of Catholic aristocrats whom he served.

As a lutenist, Cutting was probably an amateur, not a professional musician, but his works show the hand of a skilful musician and composer. His music is characterized by a preference for intricate polyphony, although he also wrote light pieces using simple homophony. In the pavans and galliards we often find a complex interplay between chordal and imitative writing.

Harmonically, Cutting’s music is sometimes forward-looking, with its extensive use of sequences and occasional flashes of harmonic daring.

One or two of his pieces are often encountered in compilations of Elizabethan-era recitals on record. It is much more unusual to find extended sequences of his work, much less a whole album. Yet, when heard in the round, it becomes clear that Cutting’s music belongs with the great names of the Elizabethan golden age. The serious mood of his pavans, the vitality of his galliards, the gaiety of his almains, together with his personal harmonic idiom and his inventiveness in using counterpoint, imitation and sequences, are all sure signs of a gifted and often inspired composer.

Now based in Switzerland as a professor of lute and guitar at the Conservatory of St Gallen, Domenico Cerasani won critical praise for his previous Brilliant Classics album dedicated to the The Raimondo Lute Manuscript of 1601.

‘There is much to enjoy on this CD.’ (Early Music Review) ‘Cerasani has chosen his selection well; his fine technique, musicality and artistic sensitivity invite the listener to transport themselves almost directly into the sound world of a lute connoisseur of the time.’ (Amadeus)

Francis Cutting (1550-1603) was one of the major lute composers of Elizabethan England, yet little is known about his life. He may not even have been a professional composer, as he is referred to as “A gentleman” and his works were not widely circulated like those of his fellow composers.

Cutting’s lute works have been preserved in three manuscripts written by Matthew Holmes and in “A new booke of Tabliture’ published in 1596 in London by William Barley.

His music is characterized by a preference for a ‘learned’ polyphonic fabric, although he also wrote light pieces using simple homophony. In the pavans and galliards we often see a complex interplay between chordal and imitative writing. Harmonically, Cutting’s music is sometimes forward-looking, with its extensive use of sequences and occasional flashes of harmonic daring.

Played by Domenico Cerasani, an Italian lute and guitar player, as well as an avid scholar. He made already a successful recording for Brilliant Classics: the Raimondo Manuscript.

Sir Walter Raleigh’s Galliard [1.32]
The Squirrel’s Toy- Cutting’s Comfort [1.36]
Mrs Anne Markham’s Pavan [4.16]
Galliard [1.47]
Quadro Pavan [2.22]
My Lord Willoughby’s Welcome Home – (Dowland/Cutting) [3.09]
Galliard on ‘Go from my Window’ [1.47]
Pavana Bray (Byrd/Cutting) [4.42]
Galliard [1.45]
Almain [1.24]
Pavan Sans Per [3.16]
Galliard [1.58]
Greensleeves [3.12]
Galliard [1.35]
Jig-Toy [2.37]
Walsingham [2.59]
Galliard [1.37]
Almain [2.00]
Galliard [1.55]
Packington’s Pound [2.51]

III. In Nomine II (Fretwork) Signum CD SIGCD576.

In Nomine II Product Image

Over thirty years ago, Fretwork made its first recording—well, technically speaking it was the second album to be recorded, but the first to be released—and it was called ‘In nomine’, which consisted mainly of 16th-century examples of this remarkable instrumental form.

While this isn’t an anniversary of that release, we want to look both back to that first release and forward, to bring the genre up to date. There were several examples of the In nomine and related forms that we didn’t or couldn’t record in 1987, and this album seeks to complete the project.

The form was created unwittingly by John Taverner (1490-1545). His 6-part mass, Gloria tibi Trinitas, is based on the plainchant of that name. In the Sanctus, at the words Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini (Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord), the six-part texture is pared down to two and three parts; and then, with the words 'in nomine' Domini, Taverner makes, for the only time in the mass, a complete statement of the cantus firmus, accompanied by three voices [listen]. This four-part section—very beautiful as it is—must have struck contemporaries as some kind of perfection, to be used as a template, to be emulated and copied. And then those copies were copied and changed again.

Typically, an In nomine would have the alto, or second part, playing this cantus firmus in long slow notes of equal length. The other parts would weave counterpoint around it, sometimes commenting upon it, sometimes ignoring it. Typically, the cantus firmus starts and ends on the note D—but there are many exceptions to all these ‘rules’.

There are several important moments in the tune. The opening rising and falling third is often imitated; The sixth and seventh notes moves the tonality away from the opening D into F; At the end of the second line here, it reaches its highest point and then (third note, third line) we have a semi-tone rise and fall, one of only two in the tune. Lastly, the shape of the tune falls gradually and gracefully from the highest note to the lowest, two notes before the final note.

One of the earliest and most prolific of the composers to imitate Taverner’s original was Christopher Tye (1505-1573), who composed at least 25 examples, many with titles. The titles are sometimes whimsical and sometime refer to the musical argument: 'Howlde fast', for example, tells the players to hang to their parts even when it may seem contradicted by the other parts. 'Re la re' is the three notes figure on which the piece is based; and 'Reporte' refers to the way the parts echo each other. Of Tye himself, we have this little anecdote from Anthony Wood (not a very reliable source):

Dr. Tye was a peevish and humoursome man, especially in his latter dayes, and sometimes playing on ye organ in ye chap.[el] of qu. Elizab. wh.[ich] contained much musick but little delight to the ear, she would send ye verger to tell him yt he play’d out of tune: whereupon he sent word yt her eares were out of Tune.

There are over 300 extant examples of In nomines composed by British composers in the 16th & 17th centuries. Our first disc contained both Taverner’s original and the most popular In nomine: Robert Parsons’s five-part example. However, Parsons (1535-1572) also wrote two magnificent seven-part In nomines and we present them here. There are only three examples of complete seven-part In nomines that have survived, and we have them all on this recording: Parsons’ two examples and Henry Purcell’s, that comes at the end of his exploration of the viol consort repertory of Fantazias and In nomines.

Both of Parsons’s seven-part In nomines are found in a huge ‘table book’, now in the British Library. It is called A booke of In nomines & other solfainge songes of v: vi: vii: & viii: parts for voyces or instrumentes. Interestingly, there are no eight-part pieces. I think the young Purcell saw this book, as the title to the second part of the manuscript where he wrote his immortal Fantazies, also in the British Library, echoes the earlier work: Here Begineth ye 6, 7 & 8 part Fantazias. Again, there are no eight-part pieces.

But in other respects the music is very different: Purcell calls for two high treble viols, three tenor viols and two basses, with the cantus firmus in the middle of the texture; while Parsons places the tune at the top of the texture for both works, and has a combination of low viols to weave an extraordinary polyphonic texture beneath.

The only duplication on this disc is John Baldwin’s (1560-1615) In nomine from 1592 in four parts. It’s a typically rhythmically tricksy piece from a composer who revelled in these complexities. His Proporcions to the minim is a favourite: the bass part has long notes lasting 5 minims each—a rather In nomine-like tune—while the upper parts move in a rather beautiful rarified ether, jostling for position mostly in minims. Gradually the treble part locks into notes half as long again; these notes are halved and halved again; and finally halved once more. Today, this technique is known as metric modulation. This leaves only the bass moving in the original speed. The original notation can be seen on the cover of this disc, in Baldwin’s neat and rather beautiful hand.

Nico Muhly (b1981) is unusual among today’s composers in that he has direct experience of the Anglican tradition, having sung in an Episcopalian church boys’ choir, with an intimate knowledge of the music of Byrd, Gibbons, Weelkes & Purcell. When we asked him to write an In nomine for us in 2015, he knew the tradition and what it meant. The result is a brilliant inversion of the genre: a shimmering texture of fast repeated notes is punctuated with long slower notes passed around the ensemble; as opposed to a texture of long slow notes punctuated by occasionally quicker movement. There is humour too in the title: ‘Slow’, while the tempo indication is ‘Actually fast’. It is a true In nomine, with three full statements of the cantus firmus, the last a melancholy epilogue, assailed by vocal exclamations from all sides.

Earlier, in 1995, we had commissioned Gavin Bryars (b1943) to write a companion piece to Purcell’s Fantazias and In nomines. Bryars chose to imitate the 6-part In nomine and the result was a modern classic. Bryars’s music often seeks to slow the pulse down to a kind of stasis where each event becomes more and more significant. Here he takes as example a majestically slow and inevitable work and extracts significant motifs and then creates a broad canvass to paint a dark and brooding work that revels in the colours of the viols’ extreme ranges.

Although John Bull (c1562-1628) wrote several pieces of consort music and one In nomine for viols—recorded on the previous disc—he was known as a keyboard virtuoso; and we have chosen to unpick his extraordinary In nomine in 11/4 to present here. Eleven beats per bar was certainly unusual at the time; it is divided up into two fours and one three, which makes a restlessness which is exacerbated when the whole thing is converted into triple time to conclude.

Bull also wrote a famous ‘Hexachord’ fantasia for keyboard which used all twelve transpositions of the hexachord, and thus went through all the keys, requiring an equally-tempered keyboard. It has been suggested that he presented this work in his inaugural lecture at Gresham College, and that it was emulated by Alfonso Ferrabosco II (1575-1628) with his two hexachord fantasias for 4 or 5 viols, which also go through all (or most) of the keys.

Ferrabosco may sound Italian, but was born in Greenwich and never left the country. His father, of the same name, was Italian, and was a highly esteemed member of Elizabeth’s musical establishment; he married Susanna Symons and soon after the birth of their two children, they left for Italy. Elizabeth wouldn’t let the children follow their father, so they were brought up by another member of the court, Gomer van Awsterwyke. The young Alfonso eventually became himself a member of the court band with the position of ‘musitian for the violles’. He was to become one the most celebrated English viol players. He wrote six In nomines, three in 5 and three in 6 parts, and none is more characteristic than the monumental In nomine through all the parts, where the cantus firmus, rather than being assigned just to one part and to notes of equal length, is moved down through the consort, from top to bottom, treble to bass and given rhythmic articulation.

Which leaves John Ward (c1589-1638); who came from Canterbury and was a chorister in the cathedral, and then attended the grammar school there; he then joined the musical establishment of Sir Henry Fanshawe. He composed and published madrigals but wrote more music for viol consort, which was very popular both in his lifetime and after, to judge by the sources. Most of his five-part consorts must have been composed before 1619 when Francis Tregian died, who was one of the principal copyists. This is his only In nomine in five parts and shows the form still in robust health nearly a century after its birth. William Lawes was to write several examples in 5 & 6 parts a decade or two later; and John Jenkins likewise wrote two wonderful works at a similar time. The last work written before the present time was Purcell’s In nomine in 7 parts. — Richard Boothby

    1. Slow (In Nomine in 5 parts) – Nico Muhly (b.1981)
    2. In Nomine IV in 7 parts – Robert Parsons (1535-1572)
    3. In Nomine V in 7 parts – Robert Parsons
    4. In Nomine in 11/4 – John Bull (c.1562-1628)
    5. Proportions to the minim – John Baldwin (1560-1615)
    6. Upon In Nomine 1592 – John Baldwin
    7. In Nomine 1606 – John Baldwin
    8. In Nomine in 6 Parts, No. 1 – Alfonso Ferrabosco II (1575-1628)
    9. In Nomine in 6 Parts, No. 2 – Alfonso Ferrabosco II
    10. In Nomine through all the parts – Alfonso Ferrabosco II
    11. In Nomine – Gavin Bryars (b.1943)
    12. In Nomine in 5 parts – John Ward (c.1589-1638)
    13. Reporte – Christopher Tye (1505-c.1573)
    14. Howlde fast – Christopher Tye
    15. Re la re – Christopher Tye
    16. In Nomine in 7 parts, Z. 747 – Henry Purcell (1659-1695)


Composer Info

Giovanni Coperario, William Lawes, Claudio Monteverdi, Christopher Simpson, Alfonso Ferrabosco II (1575-1628), John Ward (c.1589-1638), John Jenkins, Tomas Lupo, John Deering, William White, Francis Cutting (1550-1603), Dowland, Byrd, Nico Muhly (b.1981), Robert Parsons (1535-1572), John Bull (c.1562-1628), John Baldwin (1560-1615), Gavin Bryars (b.1943), Christopher Tye (1505-c.1573), Henry Purcell (1659-1695)

CD Info

Ricercar CD RIC-413, Brilliant Classics CD 96099, Signum CD SIGCD576