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Recorder Music from Renaissance England: A Concorde of Sweete Sound
Robert PARSONS (c. 1530-1570) Ut Re Mi Fa Sol La [4:36]
Thomas TALLIS (c. 1505-1585) In nomine [3:09]
John TAVERNER (c. 1490-1545) In nomine [1:58]
Anonymous Prince Edward’s Paven (c. 1550) [1:29]
Anonymous The Queine of Ingland’s Paven (c. 1550) [0:42]
Anonymous Ovet mundus letabundus (14th century) [2:40]
Anonymous O homo considera (14th century) [1:27]
Anonymous Tu civium primas (14th century) [2:17]
Anonymous Inter chorus paradiscolarum (14th century) [2:07]
Robert CARVER (c. 1490-c. 1546) Agnus Dei (from Missa ‘L’Homme arme") [10:50]
Hugh ASTON (c. 1485-1558) Hugh Ashton’s Maske [3:06]
William BYRD (c. 1543-1623) Fantasia [2:42]
Robert WHITE (c. 1538-1574) Fantasia III [2:54]
Robert WHITE (c. 1538-1574) Fantasia IV [4:03]
James HARDING (d. 1626) A Fancy [3:10]
Anonymous Let us not that young man be (16th century) [2:10]
King HENRY VIII (1491-1547) En vray amoure [1:14]
John BALDWIN (d. 1615) Upon salva nos [2:53]
John BALDWIN (d. 1615) 4 vocum [1:41]
John BALDWIN (d. 1615) Upon in nomine [2:17]
Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet
Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London, UK, 20-22 September 1991 DDD
DECCA 476 1972 [58:17]


When one desires to take a trip through a musical time machine and aurally set one’s self in a simpler era, it is difficult to recreate with any certainty music much more ancient, or durable, than instrumental music from the 14th and 15th centuries. Recorder consorts were common in Medieval and Renaissance courts, and would perform pieces originally set for vocalists as well as instrumental works that could have been written for any SATB quartet. These simple instruments were generally used for small interior settings, as the instrumentalists would switch to a consort of louder instruments (such as crumhorns) for less intimate settings. It is indeed notable that even King Henry VIII tried his hand at composition for this type of ensemble, thus revealing the high esteem in which it was held in English courts. Thus this recording brings the listener into the inner sanctum of the height of refinement of a bygone England.

The music is generally representative of what made English music of the era so innovative and distinctive. While French and Italian music of that time tended towards "perfect" intervals for harmonies (open 4ths and 5ths), the English recognized the warmth and color that triads bring to music, and as a result this music does not sound at all unfamiliar to the modern ear. Indeed, this is the genesis of modern harmonization. Also notable is that the earliest form of purely instrumental music extant is found here: the fantasia, also called sometimes a "Fancy". The best known of English Renaissance composers are well represented; the result is truly pleasing to the ear and to the soul.

With few exceptions, there is a great amount of homogeneity in sound for these recordings. To the modern listener, the most medieval accent of these recordings will probably be the timbre of the recorder. There is no commonly used modern instrument that sounds quite the same; it relates most closely to the Irish tin-whistle, although the sound is much warmer and richer. On the other hand, the works themselves will feel perhaps simple, but not strange. After all, Baroque music, which is still heard today, derives in great part directly from this musical tradition. There are a few (the fantasias and Baldwin’s 4 vocum) with an energetic rhythmic complexity and great independence in each part similar to vocal motets. Aside from that, these works sound much like Bach’s or Palestrina’s vocal quartets or early portative organ works transcribed for recorders.

As far as the sound production, Inter Chorus Paradiscolarum seemed to have some background static that sounded akin to a faulty microphone being used during the recording. Otherwise the recording quality itself was excellent, catching the wooden timbre of the instruments very cleanly. It has to be considered a rarity to find virtuoso players on recorder in the modern world, but these players are certainly competent and capable of performing at a very high level.

So should the listener have an interest in exploring the earliest of instrumental music, this would be a nice place to start. The performances are both relaxing and stimulating, and it isn’t every recording that boasts a King’s own composition. So, should one wish to take a trip to Shakespearean England, this album might be a fair locale from which to start.

Patrick Gary


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