Canticum Canticorum Roland de LASSUS (c.1532-1594)
Veni in hortum meum (1562) [3:28] Giovanni Pierluigi
da PALESTRINA (c.1525-1594)
Osculetur me osculo oris sui (1584) [3:08] Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672)
Anima mea liquefacta est (1629) [4:21]
Adjuro vos (1629) [4:26]
Ego dormio (1625) [4:06]
Vulnerasti cor meum (1625) [3:31] Domenico MAZZOCCHI (1592-1665)
Dialogo della cantica (1640) [7:01] Healey WILLAN (1880-1968)
Rise Up, My Love, My Fair One (1928) [1:50] William WALTON (1902-1983)
Set Me as a Seal upon Thine Heart (1938) [3:06] Thomas TOMKINS (1572-1656)
My Beloved Spake (1668) [4:49] Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER (1643-1704)
Dilecti mi (n.d.) [4:28]
Pulchra es et decora (c.1687) [3:03] Marin MARAIS (1656-1728)
Passacaille (1692) [6:49] John DUNSTABLE (c.1390-1453)
Quam pulchra es (n.d.) [2:22] Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
My Beloved Spake (c.1677) [10:29]
Baroques: Dorothee Mields, Catherine Webster (soprano),
Matthew White (countertenor, artistic director), Colin
Balzer (tenor), Sunner Thompson (baritone), Robert macdonald
(bass); Helen Plouffe, Christina Zacharias (baroque violins),
Margaret Little (baroque viola, viola da gamba), Amanda
Keesmaat (baroque cello), Matthew Jennejohn, Douglas Kirk
(cornets), Maxine Eilander (harp), Stephen Stubbs (lute,
baroque guitar), Hank Knox (harpsichord, organ); guest
musical director, Stephen Stubbs.
rec. 17-20 March, 2007, Church of St. Augustin de Mirabel,
Texts and translations included. ATMA ACD2 2503 [69:02]
the Canterbury Tales, the most cynical of all of
Chaucer’s narrators is the Merchant. In the course of his
Tale he demonstrates a scorn for pretty well all the values
of his age, be they religious, social, moral or aesthetic.
At one point the elderly husband January addresses a love
lyric to his young bride May, which begins thus:
up, my wyf, my love, my lady free!
turtles voys is herd, my dowve sweete;
winter is goon with alle his reynes weete.
forth now, with thyne eyen columbyn!
fairer been thy brestes than is wyn!
the end of January’s lyric, the Merchant comments “Swiche
olde lewed wordes used he”. The words come, of course,
from the Song of Songs and, however grotesque January’s ‘love’ for
May might be, the words he employs, while they may be “old” are
certainly not merely “lewd”. They are words of marvellous
erotic beauty, words that beyond their obvious amorous
power have long been interpreted as a metaphorical expression
of – amongst other things – the human longing for the divine.
This is not the place to attempt discussion of the elaborate
interpretations of the Song of Songs produced through generations
of Jewish and Christian response to the text. Suffice it
to say that, thank goodness, many outstanding composers
have not shared the Merchant’s dismissive attitude towards
these ‘old’ words. From at least Hildegard of Bingen onwards,
composers great – and not so great – have been attracted
(or perhaps sometimes commissioned) to set verses from
the Song of Songs; leaving aside the composers featured
on the present disc, one might add the names of Gioseffo
Zarlino (1517-1590), Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599), Monteverdi,
Allegri, and Telemann, or mention such modern works as Flos
Campi (1925) by Vaughan Williams and Le Cantique des
Cantiques (1952) by Daniel-Lesur.
isn’t clear who was responsible for putting together the
present collection – presumably either Matthew White or
Stephen Stubbs. Whoever it was, the selection and programming
are excellent. Medieval, Renaissance, baroque and twentieth
century settings are juxtaposed in creative (and never
more than momentarily jarring) fashion. In addition to
the stylistic variety thus created, a variety of sound
is also ensured by the use of varying vocal and instrumental
combinations. So, for example, we hear the Lassus motet
sung by five voices with bass continuo, the motets by Schütz
are sung by two tenors, two cornetts and bass continuo,
and Palestrina’s motet is sung a capella. The lovely piece
by Mazzocchi foregrounds the two sopranos (one heard as ‘echo’ to
the other); Charpentier’s ‘Dilecti mi’ is sung by counter
tenor, tenor and bass, again with continuo bass. We even
get, by way of further variety a rewarding piece by Marais,
played by two violins and continuo, which serves as a break
from all the heady words which surround it.
Willan is represented by two of his Three Motets in
Honour of our Lady and are so lovely (even if their
harmonic language comes as a bit of shock after Mazzocchi’s ‘Dialogo’ if
one listens to the disc straight through) that one regrets
the absence of the third. To my surprise I found myself
preferring these two pieces even to the excellent setting
by Walton which follows immediately on them. In the case
of both Willan and Walton it is fascinating to hear the
music sung one voice to a part.
motets by Schütz are relatively early works, with many
Italianate touches, and are settings of great vivacity
and sensuousness. Charpentier’s ‘Pulchra es et decora’,
for three treble voices (here the two sopranos and the
counter tenor) and continuo bass is quite ravishing, a
three minute elaboration on two lines of verse, written
for the vespers of the Assumption of the Virgin.
is fascinating to hear and compare the two settings of
the Song of Solomon Chapter 2, verses 10-13 and 16 (‘My
Beloved Spake’) by Tomkins and Purcell (and, of course,
the first of Willan’s two motets incorporates some of the
same words, those same words so caustically dismissed by
Chaucer’s Merchant). The Purcell makes a magnificent conclusion
to the disc.
more, indeed, that one listens to this CD, the more one
realises its riches (almost every track could be picked
out for individual praise) and how much thought has gone
into the planning of it. Throughout the singing and the
instrumental work are alike are of a high order. The recorded
sound is close and detailed but radiant.
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