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Hyperion Records

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The Annunciation with two saints and four prophets (1333) by Simone Martini (1284-1344)
& Lippo Memmi (fl1317-1347). Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence / Giraudon / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67938
Recording details: October 2011
Westminster Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: January 2013
Total duration: 5 minutes 35 seconds

'The choir is on excellent form and the recorded sound seems perfectly to capture a sense of place, of atmosphere' (Gramophone)

'This is an album for those who love the acoustic, the atmosphere and the traditions of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in London … the pacing and cohesion of the Agnus Dei of Paelstrina's Missa Emendemus in Melius is accomplished and moving, and their singing of plainsong with organ second-to-none' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The true musical spirit of the Lenten season … is to be found in the ancient antiphons, psalms and motets which have been part of the liturgical fabric of the season for centuries. This is what we have here, and an intensely beautiful CD it makes too … nobody could remain untouched by the profound beauty and timelessness of this music, and given these unaffected, sensitive and fluent performances from a choir which has been singing Lenten music in a liturgical context for decades, the result is something very special indeed … this is a beautifully devised programme, sung with ineffable perceptiveness by the Westminster choristers and recorded with utterly natural atmosphere by the Hyperion team' (International Record Review)

Ave Maria
composer
5vv ATTBarB; Christ Church, Oxford, MSS 984-988, The Dow Partbooks; late 1560s
author of text
Luke 1: 28b, 42b

Other recordings available for download
The Cardinall's Musick, Andrew Carwood (conductor)
St Paul's Cathedral Choir, John Scott (conductor)
Magnificat, Philip Cave (conductor)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Ave Maria has become Parsons’ most famous and well-loved motet since it was included in the Oxford Book of Tudor Anthems in 1978. Settings of the Ave Maria are not frequent in England—even William Byrd only set them as required by the liturgy in his two books of Gradualia (1605 and 1607) rather than as stand-alone pieces. Parsons simply sets the lines found in the Gospel of St Luke and has no invocation for the dead (authorized by Pope Pius V in 1568). This is a magical setting and it is not surprising that there is a beautiful ‘Amen’ coda. Initially the piece gives the impression of using a cantus firmus in the top part but it is in fact free-composed throughout. Parsons starts each medius phrase one note higher than the previous one, beginning on F and then moving up to D with long slow notes before reaching ‘benedicta tu’ when it joins the other voices in equal importance. Paul Doe has suggested that this piece might have been prompted by the early promise or subsequent plight of Mary, Queen of Scots. There is no direct evidence for this but it is not unreasonable to consider Parsons and indeed most of the mid-sixteenth-century writers—Sheppard, Tallis, White, Mundy and Tye—as Catholic sympathizers. They seem more free, more expressive, more expansive and more brave in their Latin compositions and it is tempting to speculate that in setting words from Psalms 15 and 119, the Lamentations and the Funeral Responds, they were consciously producing music with a Catholic slant. In comparison their English works tend to be shorter and less virtuosic and even the fledgling Great Services are short on excellent material, but then these mid-sixteenth-century composers were creating a new genre not previously explored and were probably writing to fulfil a set of rules which were not entirely clear. England had to wait for another generation—headed by William Byrd, Thomas Weelkes and Thomas Morley—before writing in English could achieve greatness.

from notes by Andrew Carwood © 2011


Other albums featuring this work
'Advent at St Paul's' (CDH55463)
Advent at St Paul's
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55463  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Byrd, Parsons & White: Where late the sweet birds sang' (CKD417)
Byrd, Parsons & White: Where late the sweet birds sang
MP3 £8.00FLAC £10.00ALAC £10.00 CKD417  Download only  
'Parsons: Sacred Music' (CDA67874)
Parsons: Sacred Music
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00ALAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00 CDA67874  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

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