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Hyperion Records

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The Adoration of the Magi (tapestry made by William Morris & Co) by Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898)
Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDH55443
Recording details: February 2001
St Paul's Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: January 2002
Total duration: 2 minutes 23 seconds

'Luminous with a sense of goodness and well-being, brightest and best of choral records for the last many months … a distinguished record' (Gramophone)

‘Fascinatingly diverse anthology … a tonal brightness and rhythmic vitality that sparkle with festive brilliance’ (BBC Music Magazine)

‘This series is the richest treasure trove an Anglican musician or English choral buff could hope to find. Texts and notes are an Anglophile’s dream. Sound is stunningly rich and ringing’ (American Record Guide)

‘The eclectic and thoughtful repertoire mix make for compelling listening … warmly recommended’ (Classic FM Magazine)

‘The choral tone is pleasant, the soloists are well chosen, and the recorded balance keeps everything in perspective’ (Fanfare, USA)

'Hurrah for John Scott and St Paul's, who with this wonderful CD remind all how glorious the Epiphany repertoire is … every piece is approached as if it were the finest thing ever written, and joy is taken in rendering the simple beautiful … let us rejoice at the richness of this programme' (Organists' Review)

‘Seventy-two minutes of utter bliss. This is a disc of St Paul’s and the Hyperion team at their best. Organ and choir make an impact and what a magnificent sequence of music! … this is one of the finest discs I have heard in a long time and I have not stopped playing it’ (Cathedral Music)

‘There is much of merit here, and those who collect St Paul’s and church music in general won’t go far wrong with this one’ (The Delian)

Senex puerum portabat
composer
1607; Gradualia II
author of text
Antiphon at First Vespers on the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Introduction
William Byrd (1539/40–1623) learned his art from Thomas Tallis and became one of the most successful of the Tudor composers. He worked as Organist and Master of the Choristers at Lincoln Cathedral between 1563 and 1570 before moving to London to become a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal following the accidental death of Robert Parsons. At the Chapel he worked jointly with Tallis. In 1575 Tallis and Byrd secured a royal patent for the printing and distribution of part-music.

The four-part Latin anthem Senex puerum portabat is found in the second book of Gradualia dating from 1607. Some years ago it became unfashionable to speak of the music of the Tudor composers—or composers of any so-called ‘early’ period—in terms of ‘word painting’, that is to say that a composer depicts the text being set in an expressive way. It has even been suggested that ‘early’ composers were not able to express themselves in music in any meaningful way at all—a notion reinforced by Stravinsky. This idea must be laid to rest at the earliest opportunity. True, composers of earlier periods did not express themselves in the overt way that composers of nineteenth century did, but there is a subtlety of expression in Byrd’s music which even the most hard-headed academics would acknowledge. In his anthem Senex puerum portabat it can be no surprise to the listener that the word ‘portabat’ is set with a rising interval in which the melodic line is held high before moving on towards the cadence. Further evidence of such an expressive approach is to be found at the delicate vocal lines at the word ‘adoravit’—truly a composer depicting an adoring mother enjoying her new-born child, the long-awaited Messiah.

from notes by William McVicker 2002

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