Welcome to Hyperion Records, an independent British classical label devoted to presenting high-quality recordings of music of all styles and from all periods from the twelfth century to the twenty-first.
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‘In Queene Elizabeths time there was a songe sent into England of 30 parts (whence the Italians obteyned the name to be called the Apices of the world) which beeinge songe mad(e) a heavenly Harmony. The Duke of ‘_____’ bearing a great love to Musicke asked whether none of our English men could sett as good a songe, & Tallice beinge very skillfull was felt to try whether he would undertake the Matter, which he did and mad(e) one of 40 p(ar)ts which was songe in the longe gallery’ at Arundell House.’
It is likely that the elusive ‘Duke’ referred to is the Duke of Norfolk, who is thought to have commissioned Spem in alium as a challenge to English composers to produce music finer than that of their Italian counterparts. Indeed, the piece was first performed at Arundel Castle, as described. The mention of thirty parts seems to be a misunderstanding of Striggio’s forty-part work, but the reference to ‘heavenly harmony’ is something which is highly-significant even today. The overriding response of the listener to these works, especially when positioned at the centre of the sound, is truly mesmerising: it is harmonically indulgent and absolutely inimitable.
from notes by Christopher Monks © 2018