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Philip van WILDER (c.1500-1553) Complete Sacred Music - Chansons Ite missa est/Deo gratias [1.03] Homo quidam [3.30] Pater Noster [3.29] Sancte Deus [6.14] Amy souffrez [2.57] O doux regard [2.48] Je file quandDieu me donne de quoy [1.18] Pour vous aymer [2.06] Amour me poingt, et si jeme veulx plaindre [2.42] Shall I despair [2.01] Blessed art thou that fearest God [2.22] Vidi civitatem [6.21] Non est qui/Non nobis Domine [1.35] Aspice Domine [6.00] JOSQUIN DES PREZ (1450-1521) Homo quidam [2.48] Nicolas GOMBERT (1495-1560) Amy, souffrez [2.32] Thomas CAUSTON (d.1569) Turn thou us [3.10] Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585) Sancte Deus [4.19] O sacrum convivium [2.48] Blessed are those that be undefiled [3.24] William BYRD (1543-1623) If in Thine Heart [2.35] Aspice Domine [4.19] Ne irascaris/Civitas sancti tui [6.29]
rec. St. Augustine’s, Kilburn, 3-4 September 2006, 10 February 2007 TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC 0198 [76.50]
I can do no better than to start by quoting directly from the CD booklet: “The recording surveys Van Wilder’s surviving music, and includes all his salvageable sacred works along with a representative selection of chansons. Works by other composers appear either because they provide source material for van Wilder’s pieces, or because they in turn, drew in some cases upon his work.”
The implication is that Van Wilder was a very significant figure at the time, so it’s all the more curious that he has and remains, until now, entirely unknown. This effectively means that van Wilder is neatly encapsulated in the world of the Tudors and alongside his contemporary continental musicians.
It seems that he was practically Henry VIII’s favourite composer and was lutenist at Court. He taught Henry’s children and was present at the ‘Field of the Cloth of Gold’. If any reader recalls a record entitled ‘The Flower of all Ships - Music for Mary Rose (c.1500) (CRD1148) then Van Wilder’s ‘Arthur’s Dompe’ for solo lute can be heard there. He was wealthy, successful and highly regarded. It therefore seems to be unlikely that the works recorded here represent his complete choral output. We also have to face another fact although Dr. David Allinson does not say this in his excellent and detailed accompanying notes. That is that some of Wilder’s secular pieces may be left anonymously among the surviving material of the period such as the Henry VIII Manuscript.
Like many, Van Wilder seems to have been happy to compromise and become a composer of Protestant Church music under Edward VI. Such anthems as Blessed art thou confirm this. What makes him so special is his influence on men like Tallis and Byrd. By putting Van Wilder’s motets beside those of these great men one reaches the startling conclusion that Non nobis Domine - the simple canon which schools and parish choirs still sing - is not by Byrd at all but by Van Wilder. It comes as a fragment from his motet Aspice Domine - a text also set by Byrd. In fact it has been shown by Dr David Humphreys that that this tiny piece was used as a ‘call sign’ for Catholics. Later it was adopted by Protestants after the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot. Several other melodic fragments from Wilder’s large-scale motet Vidi civitatem can also be heard in Byrd’s well known setting, which ends the disc. Clearly Byrd admired the older man’s work. Other examples throughout the disc are legion.
Wilder’s Sancte Deus demonstrates the opposite in that it could well be a reworking and enlarging in a more complex manner of the setting by Tallis. Similarly, and it would seem impossible to outdo Josquin, the setting of Homo Quidam,the Burgundian master’s five-voice version is expanded. It is then developed by Van Wilder into a bigger seven-part structure with a wonderful A-men.
Wilder’s joyous Je file quand Dieu me donne de quoy seemed well known to me. Then I realised that back in 1973 the King’s Singers recorded it on A French Collection. I still have the LP, but in there it is in a version attributed to one Philippe de Vuildre - surely one and the same as Philip Van Wilder. I much enjoyed the other secular pieces in which Cantores seem to thrive. Van Wilder’s chansonShall I despair is turned into a much better known Turn Thou us,an anthem by one Thomas Causton whose name just hangs on in the cathedral repertoire.
While Cantores is not one of the top choirs I really like the sound they make. The vocal quality I would describe as airy. Intonation is reliable as is diction. They are largely Exeter graduates and renaissance music is their specialist area. For my taste Allinson’s tempi are a little fast, but I do agree that too many choirs spread themselves too languorously and romantically when singing Byrd so their approach is refreshing - even bracing. Byrd’s moving Ne irascaris/Civitas sancti tui comes out almost in a madrigalian manner. However Van Wilder’s often quite dense counterpoint at times topples over itself a little too breathlessly at these faster tempi.
I have to add that I don’t altogether agree with Dr Allinson who comments in his liner-note, that the choir is “renowned for its emotionally engaging, expressive singing”. I have felt, as indicated, that they are trying to avoid over-indulgence sometimes to the detriment of expression. I wouldn’t want to imply that their textures and dynamics are unvaried and dull. In fact, they find colour and contrast through technical means and through subtle dynamic shadings.
All power to the elbow of Toccata Classics. It deserves some sort of
prize in its investigation of off the shelf and forgotten repertoire.
This generously filled CD is beautifully recorded. It comes with excellently clear texts which have been sure-footedly translated. I only jib at the failure to tell us which editions of the Byrd and Tallis were being used and how to get hold of the Van Wilder scores.