This new release from the independent Lammas label contains
nine sacred works from Renaissance and Baroque composers. It
features Pergolesi’s magnificent ‘Stabat Mater’ for soprano,
alto and chorus. The St. Albans Abbey Girls Choir are celebrating
their tenth anniversary in 2006. It is good to hear them on
O Euchari for soprano and chorus, Hildegard
The Abbess Hildegard of Bingen was born to titled parents
in Beresheim, Rheinhessen in Germany. At the age of eight she
was put into the care of Jutta of Spanheim, whom she eventually
succeeded as Abbess of a small community of nuns attached to
the Benedictine monastery of Disibodenberg, Bingen near Mainz.
In 1141, Hildegard reported seeing tongues of flame descend
from the heavens and settle upon her, inspiring her to devote
her life to intense creativity, as a visionary, naturalist,
playwright, poetess and composer. The score to O Euchari
for soprano and chorus is a commemoration of Saint Eucharius
a third century missionary who became Bishop of the city and
was almost certainly written for the clergy at Trier.
Stabat Mater for soprano, alto and chorus, Giovanni
Musical settings of the Stabat Mater dolorosa is
a great medieval text that personalises the Virgin Mary’s grief
at the foot of the Cross. Pergolesi was born in Jesi, Italy.
His name became known thanks to his comic opera La Serva
Padrone. He was slightly physically handicapped and had
a weak constitution. A lot of confusion exists about which works
Pergolesi did or did not compose. As his work became increasingly
in demand, some publishers tried to make a little extra by taking
an anonymous composition and attaching the name of Pergolesi.
However, about the Stabat Mater there is no doubt. It
is known that in his early years he composed a Stabat Mater
in A minor. It is likely that the Stabat Mater in
C minor was Pergolesi's last composition. The commission for
this work was given by the same Order in Naples for which Alessandro
Scarlatti twenty years earlier had composed a Stabat Mater.
The melodic lines of Pergolesi are more sentimental and highly
ornamented. The piece was widely acclaimed and it seems to have
inspired many composers to imitate, paraphrase and adapt it.
Tradition has it that the work was performed there every Friday
in March at the Franciscan Church of San Luigi di Palazzo -
the church connected to the Royal Palace, where the knights
worshipped. Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater soon attracted widespread
acclaim, being performed all over Europe, and in many different
editions. He originally composed the work for soprano,
alto, three violins, cello, and organ. This performance for
Lammas Records deviates from the original, as, in addition to
the two female soloists, the girls’ choir is used in five of
the twelve sections together with a small string group and organ.
O mysterium ineffabile for chorus, Jean François
Lallouette was one of the most highly respected musicians
of his day. A pupil of Lully, the early part of his career was
spent working for his master at the Opera in Paris. A falling
out between the two over Lully’s opera Isis led to Lallouette’s
dismissal and subsequently he spent the next phase of his career
doing various jobs in Paris and in Italy, picking up various
musical influences that informed his later music along the way.
In 1697 he became Choirmaster at Rouen Cathedral, before taking
up a similar position at Notre Dame de Paris, in 1700. Claiming
fatigue, he was released in 1716 but was reinstated in 1718
after asserting that his music was not being well-performed.
O mysterium ineffabile is a very beautiful motet that
owes much to the music of Lalande.
Serve bone and Pulchra es for chorus,
Little is known about Charpentier’s early years, but one
of the earliest references is a key one. We know that he spent
three years in Rome, thoroughly immersing himself in mid-seventeenth
century Italian music. All of the musical posts that he occupied
upon his return to Paris required him to write sacred music:
for private chapels (Mademoiselle de Guise and the Dauphin),
churches (St Louis and the Sainte Chapelle) and various convents.
Charpentier’s motets, more than two hundred in total,
are incredibly diverse in style and instrumentation. It seems
likely that both Serve bone and Pulchra es are
amongst several motets that Charpentier composed to be
sung by the nuns of the Port-Royal de Paris. The text of Serve
bone is from Matthew 25:21.
O bone Jesu for chorus, Richard Dering
Recent scholarship suggests that Dering was trained in
England before later converting to Catholicism. There is certainly
evidence of his having spent some time in Rome and Venice as
a young man. Like many English Catholics of his time he opted
to live abroad, working as organist of the convent of English
nuns in Brussels. In 1625 he was appointed organist to Queen
Henrietta Maria soon after her marriage to Charles I, becoming
‘musician for the lutes and voices’ to the King in the same
year. O bone Jesu comes from the Cantica Sacra,
an especially popular collection in England after 1625. Apparently
these motets were amongst Oliver Cromwell’s favourite
In Nomine Jesu for chorus, Jan Baptist Verrijt
Jan Baptist Verrijt was, alongside Sweelinck, considered
to be one of the foremost Dutch musicians of the age. He began
his career as Organist of St Pieterskerk at Oirschot, near Eindhoven.
In 1636 he was appointed organist of St Pieterskerk, Louvain,
and at the same time became one of the city musicians. In 1640
he became city carillonneur and organist of St Janskerk, Hertogenbosch,
for which he converted to Protestantism. From March 1644 until
his death he was Organist of St Laurenskerk, Rotterdam and it
was in this last phase of his life that he produced his Flammae
divinae, Op. 5 (1649) which comprises 2 concerted masses
and 18 motets, of which In Nomine Jesu is No.18.
The work is dedicated to Dr Guiliemo Bom, probably a citizen
of Rotterdam. The text is taken from Philippians 2:10-11.
Ut queant laxis for chorus, Claudio Monteverdi
Ut queant laxis is contained within Monteverdi’s monolithic collection
Selva morale e spirituale of 1641, one of the main fruits
of Monteverdi’s thirty years as maestro di cappella at St Mark’s,
Venice. It is headed Himnus Sancti Joannis sopra lo stesso
metro (Hymn of St John in the same metre) being musically
the same as the preceding item in the collection, Iste confessor;
it is likely that other hymns of the same metre may also have
been sung to this music. Ut queant laxis is the office
hymn for the feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist. It
is significant in musical history because the opening syllables
of each half line give ut, re, mi, fa, sol and la, and this
corresponded to the notes on which the syllable was sung in
the plainsong version.
Confitebor Terzo alla Francese
for soprano, alto and chorus, Claudio
The somewhat unusual character of Confitebor tibi Domine
(Terzo alla Francese) can be attributed to the way
in which it reworks two madrigals in the French style from Monteverdi’s
Eighth book of 1638. Although scored for soprano solo, choir
and continuo, Monteverdi explains in a note that it can be performed
with ‘four violin family instruments, leaving the solo part
to a solo voice’. For this Lammas performance the vocal
line is divided so that there are additional dialogue effects.
At the Gloria Patri there is a most remarkable burst
of virtuosity from the soprano. The text is from Psalm 111.
The St Albans Abbey Girls Choir was formed back in 1996
by a group of twenty-five girls aged between seven and fifteen.
A significant development in the progress of the choir came
in 2001 with the appointment of Simon Johnson as Assistant Master
of Music and Director of the Abbey Girls Choir at St Albans
Cathedral. The year 2006 marks the Choir’s tenth anniversary
and this recording is a celebration of their achievements and
continued development. The St Albans Abbey Girls Choir have
already released two acclaimed recordings, Awake my Soul
and Lo, the full, final sacrifice; both for the Lammas
label. This recording came about following a sell-out concert
in May 2004 featuring the same performers and much of the same
One is immediately struck by the spirited and impassioned
singing of the St Albans Abbey Girls Choir which contains that
special ability to emotionally inspire the listener. They convey
an abundance of confidence and provide impressive colour in
their interpretations which easily overrides any episodes of
patchy tuning and difficulties of security of ensemble in the
For two generations the uniquely beautiful voice, incisive
intelligence and brilliant musicianship of Emma Kirkby has delighted
audiences both in concert performance and on record. The years
have affected Kirkby’s vocal flexibility and consequently reduced
her ability to thrill but her standards remain high. It remains
a pleasure to hear her voice and I thoroughly enjoyed her performance
in the Cujus animam gementem and Vidit suum dulcem
natum of the Pergolesi Stabat Mater. Sadly, I was
disappointed with the voice of Catherine Denley whose contralto
was uncomfortably unsteady, especially in her lower registers
and generally lacking in smoothness and focus.
Formed in 1978 the London Baroque ensemble, together with
Terence Charlston on the Vincent Woodstock organ, provide impeccable
playing throughout. Simon Johnson brings enormous conviction
to his expert direction.
The Lammas booklet notes are of a high standard with full
Latin texts and English translations. Recorded at the Cathedral
and Abbey Church of St Alban, in St. Albans, there is no problem
with the sound provided from the Lammas engineers.
Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater is a most frequently recorded
sacred work with dozens of recordings currently available in
the catalogues. Consequently, any recommended recording must
be of the highest possible quality. My particular favourite
versions are from Il Seminario Musicale with Veronique Gens
and Gerard Lesne on Virgin VC5 45291-2, Les Talens-Lyriques
with Barbara Bonney and Andreas Scholl under Christophe Rousset
on Decca 466 134-2 and Gemma Bertagnolli and Sara Mingardo with
the Concerto Italiano under Rinaldo Alessandrini on Opus OP