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Music for Tudor Kings: Henry VII & Henry VIII
Robert FAYRFAX (1464-1521)
I love, loved and loved would I be [1:48]1
William CORNYSH (?- 1523)
Woefully arrayed [8:23]1
Robert FAYRFAX
That was my woe [2:10]1
SHERYNGHAM (fl. c. 1500)
Ah gentle Jesu [7:38]1
Robert FAYRFAX
Most clear of colour [2:02]1
William CORNYSH
Hoyda hoyda jolly rutterkin [4:04]1
ANON
O lusty May [1:54]1,2 This day daws [4:36]1 Begone sweit night [3:01]1,2 
Henry VIII (1491-1547)
En vray amoure [1:01]2 O my heart [1:30]1
ANON
Madame d’amours [3:55]1 Consort Piece XX [1:00]2 Absent I am [3:01] 1 My heartly service [5:41]1,2 Hey trolly lolly lo! [5:01]1
Jacques BARBIREAU (c.1408-1491)
En frolyk weson [2:07]1,2
ANON
Be peace! Ye make me spill my ale! [1:46]1 The Duke of Somersette’s Dompe [1:59]2 
William CORNYSH
Ah Robin [2:32]1
ANON
I love unloved [4:51]1 Up I arose in verno tempore [1:34]1 Puzzle Canon VI [1:01]2 And I were a maiden [2:37]1,2 England be glad [1:45]1
Hilliard Ensemble1, New London Consort2/Phil Pickett
rec. Eltham College. ADD
ALTO ALC1015 [77:15]

 

Experience Classicsonline


This CD comprises the whole of ‘Popular music from the time of Henry VIII’ first issued on Saga LP 5444 in 1977 and in 1994 on Emergo Classics CD EC 3357-2. In addition the first six tracks are about half of ‘Songs for a Tudor king’, Saga LP 5461 from 1978 and in 1994 Emergo CD EC 3378-2. This king is Henry VII. Featured first is Robert Fayrfax’s I love, loved and loved would I be, the music of which flows more smoothly and naturally than the rather tortuous text suggests. This CD’s title, I love unloved, is incorrectly the same as an anonymous piece featured later Fayrfax uses extended melismata at the ends of phrases to depict a happy state of mind on the words ‘assurance’, ‘dance’ and ‘I’, lightly and smoothly done by the Hilliard Ensemble, the use of a soprano on the top line, backed by tenor and baritone helps.

William Cornysh’s Woefully arrayed is the only other outing for the soprano, now with countertenor as well as tenor and baritone. It’s a stark testimony by Christ of his sufferings immediately before and on the cross and a call to mankind not to forget these suffered for love and to come, welcome, to him, expressed in a wide vocal range. In the main a poignantly reflective piece, there are passages of livelier rhythmic effects such as ‘They mowed, the grinned, they scorned me’ (tr. 2 3:39) and in this Hilliard Ensemble performance a paler delicate texture at ‘was like a lamb offered in sacrifice’ (5:53) before the contrasted outcry of the terse final refrain. I compared the Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips recording published 1988 (Gimell CDGIM 014). This has a more flowing, smoother presentation, taking 7:07 to the Hilliard Ensemble’s 8:23. The Tallis use 2 voices per part whereas the Hilliards with one voice per part are more personal, the Tallis more ascetic. The Tallis’s actual timing is 9:07 because they repeat the opening refrain at the end. This gives the piece more symmetry but the refrain is shortened between verses and varies on every presentation so just the brief final refrain also makes for an effective ending. The Gimell CD booklet includes both sung text and a modern English ‘translation’; both considerably aid accessibility for the listener but are lacking in this Alto CD.

Fayrfax’s That was my woe, a duet for countertenor and tenor, contrasts former woe with present gladness in the arrival of skipping melismata, with an extended one on ‘body’ to close which has the effect of an oath of allegiance. Sheryngham’s Ah gentle Jesu starts as a dialogue between a sinner in countertenor and first tenor and Jesus in second tenor and baritone parts and the vocal timbres between alternating groupings and all parts are contrasted throughout. This regular thinning of texture adds to the intensity of the articulation which always returns to the adoring ‘Ah gentle Jesu’.

Fayrfax’s Most clear of colour, for countertenor and two tenor parts, has a clean line which matches its text and evolves into a refined melismatic contemplation of perfect womanhood. Cornysh’s Hoyda hoyda jolly rutterkin is the most unbuttoned piece on this CD, presented by two tenors and baritone with rustic accents, peals of melismata here used vividly to depict carousing almost palpably. Similar, but more stroppy than jolly and with more combative imitation is the anonymous Be peace! Ye make me spill my ale! (tr. 18). After this you welcome the sunny contrast of the relaxed, easy progression of the lute solo of the Duke of Somersette’s Dompe (tr. 19).

But both these are from Henry VIII’s time, arriving on this CD with O lusty May (tr. 7). Crisply presented, this bounces along with relish, highly rhythmic and with inbuilt embellishments. The first verse appears on countertenor, tenor and baritone. In the second the countertenor is joined by tenor dulcian, tenor recorder and bass sackbut, then a ‘verse’ for instruments alone with a very agile dulcian, a cross between oboe and bassoon but more oboe like, before voices and instruments come together for the final verse. This is the first of 4 songs from Scotland. The second, Begone sweit night (tr. 9) is a rather lovely lutesong with radiant upper register at the end of its verses. It begins as a gentle plea to night to go so the loved one may be met and turns more buoyant in its second verse, ‘Arise bright day’ but Paul Elliott still preserves its courtly deference. Absent I am (tr. 14), the third Scottish piece, is a hymn like lament on a long absence repeatedly emphasised, its second verse a farewell to a sweetheart delivered in tender sotto voce. The final Scots item, My heartly service (tr. 15) is a rugged affirmation of fealty freshly declaimed in yokel accents by tenor and baritone backed by tenor dulcian which provides the 6 note ground bass. Including a roll call of servants it’s like a foretaste of the settings of London street cries.

Henry VIII enters as composer with En vray amoure (tr. 10). Just the sort of raucous and forthright, bold and brazen stuff you’d expect, quite literally when performed here by soprano shawm, tenor and bass sackbuts yet the New London Consort also show some nifty ornamentation in repeated phrases. But then the tenderness of Henry’s O my heart (tr. 11), the lament of one who must leave his love, is a revelation. Here its top line is presented first as a countertenor solo before tenor and baritone join in to sing the 3 part version. The descending melisma on ‘O’ in the repeat of the title line is full of despair in this brief but haunting piece. With the same voices This day daws (tr. 8) offers chaste verses and a gentle parade of melismata with an airily soaring close to the refrain. The anonymous Madame d’amours (tr. 12) adds a bass voice to make 4 parts which together create a surprising intensity of expression and conviction of statement in smooth, sunny flowering melismata. After which Consort Piece XX, pleasingly shaped but rather brooding, is played here by tenor recorder and lute.

Hey trolly lolly lo! is a swinging piece in whose verses a man, slowly, suavely yet also without equivocation tempts a maid to pleasure in a meadow and in whose refrains she rejects him with a combination of vigour and coyness, in case mum can see them. En frolyk weson is more gutsy with spiky melismata. The bass part here is taken by tenor sackbut beneath countertenor and tenor singers.

Ah Robin builds in this performance a meditative refrain from tenor solo with baritone added and then countertenor descant, after which the refrain continues in the lower voices beneath the countertenor verses. The whole effect is one of soulful yearning. For the same voices, I love unloved features extended melismata at the ends of phrases which almost physically traces the pain aroused on such words as creature, heart and endure, whose overall flowing line contrasts with the underlying emotion. Up I arose in verno tempore is the wry delivery of the dilemma of a man who finds his girl is pregnant and all his potential actions spell disaster. The tune and backing of alto and bass cornamuse bounce the song along comically.

Puzzle Canon VI, played twice, is a bracing duet for soprano crumhorn and tenor sackbut. And I were a maiden is first presented in its purest form as a countertenor solo song of quite a strong, folksy line, then as a comely, cultivated partsong with tenor, baritone, bass, tenor recorder and lute added. In the second and third verses the instruments accompany the solo voice presentation and in the second have the repeat to themselves. England be glad is a lusty early version of ‘Your country needs you’, for Henry’s invasion of France in 1513. It’s stirring, athletic stuff for tenor, baritone and bass with ‘common man’ accents and aggressive styled melismata which are also deft too in depicting ‘fight’, ‘light’ horses and the hoped for ‘flight’ of the French.

These are fine, well balanced performances, the racy pieces especially enjoyable. The serious ones are a little reserved and could be a touch more yieldingly expressive. But they illuminate an area still not well represented on disc. This CD is excellent value but could be more listener friendly. The inclusion of sung texts and a glossary or translations in modern English would have made its contents more accessible.

Michael Greenhalgh



 


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