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Hyperion Records

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Second woodcut of the 1550 Rosarium philosophorum.
Track(s) taken from CKD417
Recording details: January 2012
St George's Church, Chesterton, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Produced by Philip Hobbs
Engineered by Philip Hobbs & Robert Cammidge
Release date: November 2012
Total duration: 4 minutes 50 seconds

'Sonic splendour abounds in the Magnificat choir's performance of this repertory. Byrd's eight-part Quomodo cantabimus unfurls majestically, ravishing the ear. In White's enormous five-part Lamentations, the choir lingers at just the right places. The subtle hues of the choir, an elite corps from Winchester and Westminster cathedrals, are particularly impressive in Byrd's Lamentation, a piece in which voicing gives the music its momentum' (BBC Music Magazine) » More

'The sober packaging of this disc gives little indication of the pleasure within. Pass it over at your peril. The small vocal group Magnificat, and its founder/director Philip Cave, explore Latin music from Tudor England mainly from the 1560s and 70s by Parsons, White and Byrd found in the Dow collection of manuscripts in the library of Christ Church, Oxford. An excellent booklet essay guides us through the changing fortunes of Latin texts in newly Protestant England, as well as questions of performance practice and pitch. But the long lines of intertwining and unfolding polyphony, performed with warmth and purity, is the reason to buy this inspirational CD' (The Observer)

'Compiled by the singer/musicologist Sally Dunkley and conducted by tenor Philip Cave, Magnificat's latest disc traces the survival of the Latin motet in the 1560s and 1570s. Byrd, Parsons and White were contemporaries, and the influence of Thomas Tallis, Byrd's teacher, can be felt in the purity of each composer's word-setting. From the aching lines of White's Lamentations to the deep groan of Byrd's Domine, the blend is beautifully relaxed and natural' (The Independent)

'What a way to open a CD! The spare beauty of Byrd's hymn Christe qui lux es et dies is quite devastating: no fancy part-writing, just simple block chords in which the hymn tune, sung in its unembellished form at the beginning and end weaves through the harmony leaving the other parts forlorn and angular. Performed with measured solemnity, this epitomises Philip Cave's style … Magnificat's recorded sound is spacious and rich, underpinned by a strong bass department, but with all the parts clear and some marvellous chording and part-crossing; false relations are met with discretion, and the phrasing is heart-rending … very highly recommended' (Early Music Review) » More

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)
Westminster Cathedral Choir, Martin Baker (conductor)
St Paul's Cathedral Choir, John Scott (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)  
'Miserere' (CDA67938)
Miserere
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 88.2 kHz £12.00ALAC 24-bit 88.2 kHz £12.00 CDA67938  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'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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