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Senex puerum portabat

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

 
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

Recordings

Byrd: Gradualia – The Marian Masses
CDH55047Archive Service
Epiphany at St Paul's
CDH55443

Details

Track 6 on CDH55047 [1'42] Archive Service
Track 15 on CDH55443 [2'23]

Track-specific metadata for CDH55443 track 15

Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-02-26915
Duration
2'23
Recording date
13 February 2001
Recording venue
St Paul's Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Epiphany at St Paul's (CDA67269)
    Disc 1 Track 15
    Release date: January 2002
    Deletion date: November 2010
    Superseded by CDH55443
  2. Epiphany at St Paul's (CDH55443)
    Disc 1 Track 15
    Release date: October 2011
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