The Tudor Renaissance

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Program: #14-44   Air Date: Oct 27, 2014

From the obscure (Edmund Sturton) to the famous (the masses of William Byrd), recent releasescelebrate the glory of Tudor England.

NOTE: All of the releases on this program are from recent recordings of English music from the 16th century.

I. Sing, Ye Birds, A Joyous Song (Yale Schola Cantorum/Simon Carrington). Delos DE 3458.

Sing, Ye Birds, a Joyous Song

Taverner, John
Mass Text, lyricist(s)

Show Details Mass, "The Western Wind"
1. Western Wind Melody - Gloria 00:05:53
2. Sanctus 00:03:59
3. Benedictus 00:02:09
4. Agnus Dei 00:06:44

Bennett, Richard Rodney
Wordsworth, William, lyricist(s)

Show Details The Glory and the Dream
5. There was a time 00:11:00
6. Our birth is but a sleep 00:04:53
7. Our joy! 00:06:09
8. Then sing, ye birds, a joyous song! 00:07:14

Gibbons, Orlando

Show Details Glorious and powerful God
9. Glorious and powerful God 00:05:16
Gibbons, Orlando
Bible - New Testament, lyricist(s)

Show Details Second Service
10. Magnificat 00:06:20
11. Nunc Dimittis 00:03:39
Tallis, Thomas

Show Details Te lucis ante terminum … Procul recedant somnia
12. Te lucis ante terminum … Procul recedant somnia 00:02:39


From James Manheim, Collegiate choral singing is nowhere near the industry in the U.S. that it is in Britain, but the Yale Schola Cantorum and a few other choirs continue to attract top-flight conductors from abroad and, from time to time, to put out interesting releases like this one. The Schola Cantorum has also enjoyed the services of Masaaki Suzuki, and between him and Carrington, a former member of the King's Singers, it has attained a high level of pitch accuracy. More than that, the singers show themselves adept in the widely varying collection of styles on this release, even among the Renaissance pieces. John Taverner's Western Wind Mass is one of the landmarks of early Renaissance English polyphony, with sweeping, irregular lines and dense, non-imitative polyphony that requires close small-group ensemble work. Orlando Gibbons' Magnificat and Nunc dimittis are splendid examples of high Renaissance sacred music, with a rousing, rock-solid Magnificat followed by a deeply meditative Nunc dimittis, while Tallis' Te lucis ante terminum is spare and revealing of any possible flaws. So far, so good, yet the real appeal lies elsewhere: the sound of the choir is quite different from those of its English counterparts, with fuller, richer voices shaped by the experience of American music and culture, and this is perhaps what appeals to the foreign conductors. It proves ideally suited to Richard Rodney Bennett's broadly appealing The Glory and the Dream, a work commissioned in the year 2000 by a group of American, Canadian, British, and Australian choirs. The work sets parts of William Wordsworth's long poem Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, a progenitor of the Romantic exaltation of youth, and to hear it sung with the peculiar enthusiasm of this group is a real pleasure. Notes, some of them written by the student choir members, and reasonable sound from a large Episcopal church in New Haven are other attractions.


II. Sacred Songs of the Renaissance (Huelgas Ensemble/Paul van Nevel). Valley Entertainment CD2-VLT-15247.

Sacred Songs of the Renaissance

Sacred Songs of the Renaissance combines the virtuosity of one of the top choirs in the world with the musical sensibilities of producer Ellen Holmes. All of the pieces are Renaissance settings of religious texts recorded by the Huelgas Ensemble. From their catalogue, Ellen selected and sequenced these pieces to draw the listener ever more deeply into a contemplative religious experience.

The Huelgas Ensemble was founded by Paul Van Nevel in 1971. The Belgian group is noted for recording unknown works and for their "burnished" sound. They have made more than 50 recordings for Sony Music and France’s Harmonia Mundi and have earned many significant awards. This CD focuses on Renaissance polyphonic music--i.e. multiple simultaneous harmonies as distinct from Medieval monophonic "Gregorian" chant. The album features the only recording of “Gaude Virgo Mater Christi à 6”, an English sacred piece from the Eton Choirbook (a collection of some of the earliest polyphonic music), as well as “Spem in alium: Forty-part motet” and “Ecce beatam lucem: Forty-part non-liturgical motet”, two of the most complex polyphonic works in the Western repertoire.

01. Gaude Virgo Mater Christi à 6 [excerpt]: Edmund Sturton
02. Sanctus from Missa 'Et ecce terrae motus': Antoine Brumel
03. Qui Tollis from Missa 'Et ecce terrae motus': Antoine Brumel
04. Mitten wir im Leben sind mit dem Tod umfangen: Michael Praetorius
05. Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ mein Hoffnung: Michael Praetorius
06. Qui concolabatur me: Jacob Clement
07. Regina Coeli: Nicolas Gombert
08. Spem in allium: Thomas Tallis
09. Agnus Dei from Missa Super 'Sancta Maria': Jacobus Gallus
10. Agnus Dei I & II from 'Missa Tempore Paschali': Nicolas Gombert
11. Ecce beatam lucem: Alessandro Striggio
12. Gaude Virgo Mater Christi à 6: Edmund Sturton


III. William Byrd: The Three Masses (Choir of Westminster Cathedral/Martin Baker). Hyperion CD CDA68038.


From The Guardian (five star review): Byrd's double life, in public a member of Queen Elizabeth I's Chapel Royal in a newly Protestant England, in private a covert Catholic, directly shaped his music. Grand works such as the Great Service are among the glories of the English choral tradition. In contrast, the three Latin masses set here, long neglected, were for amateur, chamber performance in hidden Catholic communities. Westminster Cathedral Choir may sing them with more splendour and finesse than Byrd himself would have expected, yet the results are uplifting and moving. It's no slight to these musicians to say the disc is worth buying for the Byrd scholar John Milsom's incomparable notes: a masterly encapsulation of Tudor church music history in a few dense pages.

Mass for 5 Voices by William Byrd

Mass for 4 Voices by William Byrd

Mass for 3 Voices by William Byrd

Ave verum corpus by William Byrd

Composer Info

William Bryd, Jacobus Gallus, Alessandro Striggio, Thomas Tallis, Nicolas Gombert, Edmund Sturton, Jacob Clement, Antoine Brumel, Michael Praetorius, John Taverner, Richard Rodney Bennett, Orlando Gibbons,

CD Info

Delos DE 3458, Hyperion CD CDA68038, Hyperion CD CDA68038, Valley Entertainment CD2-VLT-15247,