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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

RECORDING OF THE MONTH

 

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William BYRD (1539/40-1623)
Laudibus in sanctis - The Byrd Edition: Volume 10
Quis est homo? CS 3-4 [6:19]
Tribulatio proxima est, CS 8-9 [5:28]
Apparebit in finem, CS 12 [2:33]
Salve sancta parens [4:37]
Alleluia, Ave Maria … Virga Iesse [3:39]
Beata es, virgo Maria [2:06]
Beata viscera [1:48]
Regina caeli [4:48]
Salve regina, CS 6-7 [7:07]
Fac cum servo tuo, CS 5 [4:41]
Ecce quam bonum [3:41]
In manus tuas, Domine [2:14]
Unam petii a Domino [3:50]
Visita quaesumus, Domine [3:19]
Domine, exaudi orationem meam, inclina, CS 10-11 [6:26]
Laudibus in sanctis, CS 1-2 [5:44]
The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood
rec. Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel Castle, 10-12 May 2006. DDD
HYPERION CDA67568 [69:45]
 


The Cardinall’s Musick have recorded more of Byrd’s unaccompanied Latin motets than any other group in history. This is the tenth volume of their Byrd Edition begun in 1996. The previous volumes appeared on ASV Gaudeamus. The present CD is the first of the Byrd Edition on Hyperion. A fairly seamless change as the approach is the same: one voice per part; mixed voices as there’s evidence were used in clandestine Catholic worship; and the same authentic location where such worship would have taken place, the Fitzalan Chapel founded in 1390 at Arundel Castle. That it has a lovely acoustic, both intimate and airy but not over-reverberant, is more significant. There’s a photograph in the CD booklet of five singers recording at the altar, a little besieged by microphones. Photographs on the Arundel Castle website give more of a perspective of the chapel and its roof.
 
This CD contains the first seven motets from Byrd’s Cantiones sacrae published in 1591. In the heading these are identified after the titles as CS followed by their numbering in the original and modern editions. The numbering incorporates the dividing of most motets into two sections. Laudibus in sanctis, although so divided, is really in three sections, the real second section beginning at ‘Magnificum Domini’ (tr. 16 1:00) and the third, called the second, at ‘Hunc arguta’ (2:21). The other items on the CD are from the Gradualia published in 1605. First I shall review the Cantiones sacrae in their 1591 order.
 
Laudibus in sanctis is fittingly showcased by Hyperion as a title for this volume. It was the piece chosen to open the 1591 publication and to close this CD. It’s by far the best known item here and the only one for which there are several recordings. But there’s only one other presenting with one voice per part, I Fagiolini recorded in 1996 (Chandos CHAN 0609). Their pacier approach, a timing of 4:55 in comparison with The Cardinall’s Musick’s 5:44, emphasises the work’s lilting, madrigalian qualities and that Latin verse, Psalm 150 in sonnet form, is being sung. In the final section they are more sensitive to the contrast of ‘cymbala laudes’ and ‘cymbala dulce’ where The Cardinall’s Musick (tr. 1 3:11) concentrate on rhythmic projection with less contrast in dynamic and tone.
 
Overall though the performance by The Cardinall’s Musick’s is more impressive. It has more edge and the closer recording has more immediacy. There’s a sense of a compulsion to proclaim while the use of madrigalian features is still clear. So the sheer power of the imitation is relished at ‘cantet tuba’ (1:12) in depicting the sound of the trumpet. On the other hand, still in high tessitura, smoother imitation is found at ‘Alta sacri’ before a lusty climax at ‘laude Dei’. The suddenly snappier rhythms at ‘laeta chorea perde’ (2:46) spring into dance. The closing 16th century version of the Hallelujah chorus from 4:13 is of glowing cascades of counterpoint before the regal broadening out, with never a trace of stodginess, at ‘tempus in omne Deo’ (4:46). This is a big piece which on paper looks best suited to larger forces, but The Cardinall’s Musick has sufficient fervour and sonority to convince you that its power is in no way compromised while it’s clearer how its effects are achieved. Demonstration stuff.
 
Quis est homo is much less known. Indeed this is its first published recording. But it too is a fascinating example of the variation of straightforward and elaborate motifs and rhythms to express the text from Psalm 34. I’ll use the more familiar Anglican numbering throughout this review. The imitative entries of ‘diligit dies’ (tr. 2 0:28) are a serene picture of plenty. Then comes the warning ‘Prohibe linguam tuam’ from 0:59, ‘ keep your tongue from evil’, soon illustrated with ‘et labila tua’ at 1:37, a fluent stream of deceit from the five voices in turn, the rhythm becoming more ornate for the climactic ‘ne loquantur dolum’ from 1:45. The second section, ‘Diverte a malo’ (2:29) begins as a sustained, balmy exhortation but soon becomes very active in picturing doing good. Then again a somewhat more sustained, yet still smooth, line cuts across this activity to provide a vivid picture of the Lord watching ‘over the righteous’, ‘super iustos’, from 3:57.
 
Fac cum servo tuo has only been recorded once before, by New College Oxford Choir/Edward Higginbottom (CRD 3439 published 1986). The Cardinall’s Musick performance is far more effective because of Carwood’s more measured tempo, a total timing of 4:41 against Higginbottom’s 3:23. The New College account presents the piece in lightly rhythmic, rather clipped fashion with arid objective effect, almost as if the voices are simply displaying an exercise in counterpoint. Carwood fully realizes it as a prayer. Almost from the start (tr. 3 0:05) the solo voices, an advantage, linger on the personal nature of ‘servo tuo’, ‘your servant’, elaborated in melismata, several notes for the first syllable of ‘tuo’, from 0:12. This elaboration is then allied to the optimistic rising figure at ‘misericordiam tuam’, ‘your mercy’, from 0:40. A gentle beacon of a request, ‘doce me’, ‘teach me’, follows from 2:04. The counterpoint in this performance becomes expressively, even lovingly, flowing at ‘servus tuus ego sum’, ‘I am your servant’, presented in turn from 2:24 by upper, lower and all voices before the mood lightens even as the counterpoint becomes more finely ornate at 3:02 with ‘da mihi intellectum’, the plea for understanding which is the core of this setting from Psalm 119. This gently glowing account has a wonderfully luminous quality.
 
To Salve regina, the Marian antiphon from Trinity to Advent: Carwood brings more urgency and pace right from the opening for three voices. Just here I prefer The Sarum Consort/Andrew Mackay (ASV Quicksilva CDQS 6211 recorded in 1996). The comparative overall timings: Carwood 7:07, Mackay 9:29. The latter’s slower opening reveals more homage, contemplation and sense of the mystery of Mary. It also more readily evokes Byrd’s use of an old-fashioned style at this point. But Carwood’s recording is more immediate, articulation of the text is clearer and, once all five voices enter at ‘Ad te clamamus’ (tr. 9 0:53), his greater edge is more effective.
 
This is partly because Mackay begins with one voice per part then uses chamber choir, the outcome of which appears to be that he feels he needs to mute the expression somewhat, smoothing it out when there are more voices, so the effect is somewhat evocative of an incense-filled haze. On the other hand Carwood might claim his approach has remained consistent and Byrd’s technique in clarifying the key elements of the text is vividly demonstrated. You hear ‘exiles filii’ from 0:58 emerging from within the texture in all five parts in turn, emphasising the emotional core for Catholics that they were exiles. Also beginning quietly in one part to be taken up gradually more boldly by others are from 1:50 ‘in hac lacrimarum valle’, ‘in this vale of tears’, and from 3:13 the plea ‘ad nos converte’, ‘turn to us’.

For the second section of the antiphon, ‘Et Iesum benedictum’ (3:55), Carwood has the insight to calm things down a little, reflecting its greater hope explained by the repetitions of ‘nobis post hoc exilium ostende’ which affirm that the exile is only temporary. Then he displays supple expressiveness of appeal at ‘O clemens’ (5:16) which gives way to adoring chains of ‘O dulcis Virgo’ from 5:40 and richly decorated focus on ‘Maria’ from 6:32. The mantra is thereby burnt into your brain.
 
Tribulatio proxima est uses verses from Psalms 22 and 70 to set in ancient context the emotions of the Catholic community in the reign of Elizabeth I. The opening section, realized by Carwood as a dense tapestry of mental turmoil, often repeats through the parts (from tr. 2 0:52) the phrase ‘defensor vitae’, the Lord being the only ‘defender of life’. From this emerges the plea from 1:34, ‘vindica me’, ‘avenge me’. The second section, ‘Contumelias et terrores’ (2:06), like the opening, later ‘passus sum ab eis’ (2:30) and most strikingly of all, the closing ‘Domine, ne moreris’ (4:02) reduce the texture to three voices for greater contrast when all five respond. That closing ‘Lord, come quickly’ plea begins with two differently scored passages for three voices and is of a slowly kindled intensity.
 
Again New College Oxford Choir (CRD 3439) provides the only other recording, with again Higginbottom pacier, a total timing of 4:22 against Carwood’s 5:28. Higginbottom’s disciplined clarity of entries, excitement of ‘vindica me’ and sweeping projection create a stoic and stark effect. But the personal experience of the emotions involved is more vividly revealed by Carwood, with one voice to a part at the original, more dour lower pitch with an alto, rather than treble, top line.
 
Domine, exaudi orationem meam, inclina is a prayer taken from Psalm 143 set in sinewy counterpoint. This is its first recording. Carwood’s pace stresses its candour, the interweaving of the parts like a chain of prayer spotlighting ‘ad preces meas’ (from tr. 10 1:03), asking for audience ‘for my prayers’ then acknowledging ‘inveritate tua’ (1:51), the Lord’s faithfulness, and effecting a gentle climax to the first section, ‘et iustitia tua’ (2:23), the Lord’s righteousness. The second section begins ‘Et non intres in iudicium’ (3:04), ‘And enter not into judgement’ set fairly plainly because the elaboration of the counterpoint is directed paradoxically at emphasising the deference of ‘cum servo tuo’ (from 3:03), ‘against your servant’. Now Byrd manages to stress ‘in conspectu tuo’, in the Lord’s sight (from 4:25), but relate this powerfully to ‘omnes vivens’, all men living (from 4:51) by both texts being sung at the same time by different parts before all avow the later text from 5:54. Does this all sound a bit too intricately crafted for an expressive setting of the text? Despite Carwood’s earnest approach I’d say yes. The two simultaneous texts aren’t always ideally clear. But all credit for being the first to attempt the piece on disc.
 
Apparebit in finem is another first recording and a satisfying microcosm of a Byrd motet. It offers an attractively rapid transition from the crestfallen unease of the sinking entries of ‘si moriam fecerit’ (from tr. 3 0:38), ‘if he make delay’, to the undeterred lightness of ‘expecta illum’ (from 0:55), ‘wait for him’. Almost immediately comes the fluent assurance of ‘quia veniens veniet’ (from 1:18), ‘because he’s coming and he will’, before the stabbing, martial jubilation of ‘et non tardabit’ (from 1:45) ‘and won’t dawdle’, whose closing entries are catapulted at faster rhythm. I wondered why a piece of such madrigalian texture and resilience hasn’t been recorded before, then reflected that few ensembles can deliver it as well as The Cardinall’s Musick.
 
The remaining pieces are from the Gradualia of 1605. First come the propers, that’s the special set texts, for Lady Mass in Eastertide. The introit Salve, sancta parens has an eager five rising notes opening. It is performed by Carwood with a bright, hard edged, glistening yet flowing quality appropriate to the emphasis on eternal significance and the entries of ‘in saecula saeculorum’ (from tr. 4 0:50). Its Easter Alleluias are lighter, more dancing. Its second section, ‘Eructavit cor meum’ (1:28) is a more chaste contrast, in just three voice parts before all five return for the ‘Gloria Patri’ (2:00) which suddenly becomes very florid at ‘et spiritui sancto’ (from 2:07). The opening section and Alleluias are then repeated to emphasise this special day for Mary.
 
In these propers I shall compare The William Byrd Choir/Gavin Turner 1990 recording (Hyperion CDH 55047). Their approach to Salve, sancta parens is more measured, with a timing of 5:53 in comparison with Carwood’s 4:37. The effect is more contemplative and formal, smoother in line but more intense in delivery. The changes in harmony are more pointed. This is partly because Turner uses a chamber choir, but even the second section, where he uses three solo voices, is highly charged. Carwood is more fluid, the outcome being that the listener receives more of a feel of a spontaneous experience and witness. It even communicates an appetite for jubilant celebration and there’s more emphasis on melodic line and counterpoint. I wouldn’t say one approach is preferable to the other. The difference is interesting.
 
At this point to appreciate fully Byrd’s setting of the propers you need to relate them, as they would be in the Lady Mass, to his setting of the ordinary, the unchanging portions, of the mass for five voices. For this you have to refer to volume 5 of the Byrd Edition (ASV Gaudeamus CDGAU 206, tracks 14-18). The Kyrie and Gloria from the ordinary are sung at this point. As Carwood uses two voices per part for the ordinary but only one per part for the propers, that emphasises the latter’s more personal quality. The Kyrie is more contemplative and ascetic. The Gloria has a more universal, communal quality yet the fluency of expression of witness by The Cardinall’s Musick is strikingly consistent over the years and the passage beginning ‘Domine Deus, agnus Dei’, which Carwood assigns to solo voices, is more closely linked with the intimacy of the later recorded propers.
 
Now comes the second proper, Alleluia, Ave Maria … Virga Iesse. Carwood’s approach is at first chaste and smooth but the expression is impelled forward by the faster rhythm, sometimes in only one part. There are two very notable features. First the madrigalian illustration of blossoming on the word ‘floruit’ (tr. 5 1:44), vigorously realized here, second how the Alleluias that follow the explanatory text become ever more fervent, first at 1:14 and then climactically at 2:54.
 
With a total timing of 4:19 against Carwood’s 3:39, Turner’s performance of this piece is again more measured but this time his pulse is quite forthright. His chamber choir articulation is, however, firmer and his manner more grand and formal. The passage beginning ‘Virga Iesse’ he assigns to solo voices with the effect of mystery and homage. Here Carwood (tr. 5 1:38) gets the effect of wonder and excited realization. Turner brings more of a sense of architecture where Carwood concentrates on conveying active identification with the text.
 
At this point the Credo from the ordinary of the mass is sung and in Carwood’s ASV performance you can appreciate the contrast between its passages of personal reflection, such as ‘Qui propter nos homines’ sung by one voice to a part and spirited passages with  two voices to a part, such as ‘Et resurrexit’. The following proper on the present Hyperion disc, Beata es, virgo Maria, is uniformly serene but still flowing, its Alleluias, only used at Easter, add an exultant edge. Also using solo voices here, Turner’s slower account, 2:53 against Carwood’s 2:06, is more movingly intense and adoring, its Alleluias particularly rapt. Carwood consistently offers purposeful witness.
 
If, just at this point, like me you consider that occasionally Carwood might be a little more contemplative, his answer would I think come in the Sanctus from the ordinary of the mass which comes next in the celebration. Carwood’s ASV account of this is at once reflective and adoring, a real contrast with an intense, powerful arc on ‘Sanctus’. With regard to the other two ordinary settings, the solo voices for the Benedictus worship in more sunny fashion. In the Agnus Dei we’re back to the austerity of sorrowful reflection, yet the third supplication with two voices per part is stark in its anguish before the extraordinary lambent serenity of  ‘dona nobis pacem’.
 
Now comes the final proper on the present Hyperion disc. Beata viscera is, in Carwood’s hands, both a homage in busy counterpoint and an emphatic statement in the firmness of its emerging melodic line. Particularly notable is the soprano cutting through the texture with, in effect, the acclamation ‘Mariae Virginis’ (tr. 7 0:13) and later at ‘aeterni Patris Filium’ (0:41), identifying the son of the eternal father. There’s a similar formality about the Easter Alleluias here too, fitting for the summation of the festival. Again Turner, with a timing of 2:23 against Carwood’s 1:48 is more measured, emphasising contemplation and beauty of sound, the structure less apparent. Turner’s Alleluias create a magically soft and reverent musical mosaic. Carwood’s emphasis is on the communication of the text as active witness.
 
As it happens Carwood can be compared with his earlier self here. The motets in the Gradualia are used in various combinations for different festivals, so Beata viscera, without the Easter Alleluias, occurs also in the Propers for Lady Mass from Christmas to the Purification recorded in 1999 in the Byrd Edition volume 7 (ASV Gaudeamus CDGAU 224). The actual timing of this earlier performance is very slightly slower, 1:18 against 1:16 in 2006. The overall approach and tone is the same as are three of the five singers but for me this 2006 performance has more glow, intensity and weight. This is partly because the recording seems a little airier, partly because the soprano is a stronger influence.
 
To this liturgical sequence can finally be added Regina coeli, the Marian antiphon during Eastertide, only for three voices but what a corker! It has four sections all terminated by chains of Alleluias. The opening section is athletic, firmly sprung here with lightly rejoicing alleluias. The second section, beginning ‘Quia quem meruisti’ (tr. 8 1:01), is indeed absorbed in ‘he who Mary was worthy to bear’, with alleluias to suit. The third section, beginning ‘Resurrexit’ (2:13) is equally fittingly more animated in proclaiming the resurrection with positively jazzy alleluias. This leads to a final section, ‘Ora pro nobis Deum’ (3:13) of light confident pealing in this performance. Its appeal, ‘Pray for us to God’, is simultaneously presented in slow, chant-like manner in one part against fast, dancing versions in the other two parts. This is maintained in the Alleluias but with the slow rhythm skilfully dovetailed between the parts. While this technique is used throughout the piece it’s most apparent and assured in this section. Andrew Carwood in his lucid booklet notes, yet another felicity of this CD, terms the antiphon “a compositional (and performance) tour de force” and he leads by example, for the only occasion on this disc singing the lowest part himself. This is a tremendously fluent, pacy but never rushed, account.
 
The 1986 Chanticleer recording (Harmonia Mundi HMT 7905182) is much more measured, with a timing of 6:41 against Carwood’s 4:48. Chanticleer’s is a chamber choir performance with countertenors on the top line. The emphasis is on overall smooth balance, finely achieved, in comparison with Carwood to the detriment of close attention to the text. The third section, in particular, is comparatively tame, though the second is an appealingly tender recollection. With Carwood from the start you can identify with an eager desire to express the excitement and zeal of text and music.
 
As it happens there’s a case to be made for countertenors on the top two lines of Ecce quam bonum, because the text from Psalm 133 proclaims ‘habitare fratres in unum’ (tr. 11 0:18), ‘brothers living together in unity’. But Carwood’s ladies in this first recording sound quite like young men. It’s a fun piece, especially at the beginning where the imitation is sufficiently firm and regular between the parts to sound like a succession of rounds. From ‘quod descendit’ at 1:05 there are lots of descending patterns to enjoy and a particularly lively illustration in the top part of ointment streaming down the beard at ‘in barbam’ at 1:17.
 
For me Unam petii a Domino is Byrd just over the top, with every textual excuse from Psalm 27. It’s a succession of descending peals from the first appearance of ‘Domino’ in the countertenor (tr. 13 0:05), the object of the petition of the psalm, in continuous polyphony. It is like seeing a parade of different species of flower as they’re opening. The focus and pealing shifts temporarily to the singer, ‘vitae me’, ‘my life’ from 1:32 but returns more elaborately for the close to ‘templum eius’, ‘his temple’ from 3:00. There’s an almost psychedelic quality about the performance by The Cardinall’s Musick. The only other recording, made in 1997 by The Ionian Singers/Timothy Salter (Usk 1222),  works less well with a chamber choir. It’s neither as ecstatic nor as freshly and precisely articulated as Carwood’s solo voices. Salter’s slightly higher pitch is even more demanding in the generally high tessitura.
 
The opening text of In manus tuas, Domine is from Psalm 31. The peals here are gentler but ascending ones an approach that gives the work an upbeat quality. The prayer itself, ‘Into your hands I commend my spirit’, is a relieving, optimistic one and Carwood’s performance almost sprints off the starting blocks in heady mood which colours the following appeal to Mary. In this case I feel there’s room for a slightly smoother, more serene approach; but in the mean time I’m grateful for this first recording.
 
It’s possible to have that same feeling about the prayer at compline, Visita quaesumus, Domine. But this is interspersed with homophonic passages where in effect the top line leads, which is a becalming factor. Again it’s the rising motifs that stand out. That on ‘habitationem’ (tr. 14 0:19), the house at which the prayer seeks visitation, is in Carwood’s hands a kind of willed blessing to be followed by the dancing real one, ‘benedictio’ at 2:18. This latter showers down from the highest notes, ‘sit super nos’, literally ‘be over us’ at 2:23. Meanwhile there has been a radiant picturing of angels staying there, ‘habitent in eia’ (1:44). Carwood’s performance has a glow and intensity, a caring insistency.
 
The recording published in 1989 by The Cambridge Singers/John Rutter (Collegium CSCD 507) is a softer focus affair of the utmost gentleness. It’s beautifully done, the angels ‘habitent in eia’ especially tender, but there’s more artifice about it, with the emphasis on smoothness of phrasing and balance from the chamber choir rather than Carwood’s clarity of rhythmic variation and articulation of the text. Rutter isn’t much more measured, however, with a timing of 3:37 against 3:19 in the same music. However, Rutter’s actual timing is 4:08 because he includes an Amen whose omission from the Carwood recording without explanation is puzzling as it’s printed in the authoritative Byrd Edition of the music published by Stainer and Bell.
 
In the CD booklet, which includes sung texts and translation into English, Carwood notes of Visita quaesumus “the style and character are true to the text”, a comment that serves equally well for Byrd’s motets in general and Carwood’s consistently excellent performances. All this and four first recordings to boot.
 
Michael Greenhalgh

Hyperion have confirmed that Andrew Carwood accidentally omitted the Amen
when transcribing Visita quaesumus for the recorded performance. He intends
to record the motet again with its Amen and include it in a future volume.

 

 



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