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Hyperion Records

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Philip II of Spain by Anthonis (Antonio Moro) Mor (c1517/21-c1576-7)
Prado, Madrid / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDH55340
Recording details: June 1998
All Hallows, Gospel Oak, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: April 1999
Total duration: 13 minutes 58 seconds

'Anniversary CD of the year—and my personal favourite' (Gramophone)

'James O'Donnell and the Westminster Choir have surely come up with another stunning winner. Hyperion and all involved in this record deserve a very special accolade' (Choir & Organ)

'These performances show that Guerrero deserves his anniversary celebration' (BBC Music Magazine)

'A very important disc' (Early Music Review)

'A marvellously varied disc. More please' (Early Music)

'This is massive music, a broad rich landscape of astonishing power and beauty' (Classical Express)

'Una estupenda interpretación. Es un gran homenaje para un gran centenario' (Scherzo, Spain)

In exitu Israel
1584; Liber Vesperarum
author of text
Psalm 114 (113) with Antiphon 'Nos qui vivimus'

Almost everything about Guerrero’s setting of this long Psalm is out of the ordinary. Usually chanted to a simple formula, the verses alternating rapidly between the two facing sides of a monastic or cathedral choir, it was set by Guerrero so that the odd-numbered verses are in concise but varied polyphony. He printed the first five words of the Psalm tone in distinct note values indicating the kind of mensural chant he expected, a type used for psalmody and recitation in his day. This non-exact but quantitive and accentual style was the method, well documented, that prevailed in Spain between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. We have tried to revive this in the present performance, basing it upon the notation given by Guerrero and by his colleague Luys de Villafranca, the Seville plainchant master, whose Breve instruc[c]ión de canto llano (1565) was printed with the joint approbation of Pedro Fernández and Guerrero. The special Psalm tone used for In exitu Israel is now known as ‘Peregrinus’: it has two reciting notes, the one in the second half of each verse is a tone lower than that in the first half. Villafranca calls it ‘modo. vij. comixto’.

In Guerrero’s fifteen brief alternate verses, the chant’s outline is clearly heard, either plainly or mildly paraphrased, in one voice or another. Differing feelings of movement are built into these, sometimes by rhythms in chordal blocks, sometimes by snatches of lively imitation and little bursts of short notes. At ‘Manus habent’ (v15) Guerrero chooses to write in longer notes and changes his time signature compás mayor instead of the prevailing compasillo—a different beat, a different feel to the music.

Guerrero’s superiors of the cabildo of Seville Cathedral had ordained that Canticles and Psalms should be varied in their instrumental accompaniment and so, in this recording, the verses are varied with different instrumental groups doubling and sometimes replacing the voices. Shawms, cornetts and flutes are deployed to achieve this, along with the sackbuts and the bajón. After the plainchant intonation, the antiphon is played by instruments in Guerrero’s setting; this is repeated by all after the Psalm.

Guerrero’s contemporaries apparently esteemed this great Psalm very highly. In his biographical Book of True Portraits, the artist and publisher Pacheco asserts that Guerrero composed an In exitu Israel de Aegypto which ‘those who are best informed declare he must have composed in a state of the highest contemplation’. It is a superb example of the happy marriage of chant and polyphony. It was printed in Guerrero’s Liber Vesperarum of 1584.

from notes by Bruno Turner ę 1999

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