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Mynstrelles with Straunge Sounds: The Earliest Consort Music for Viols
Details after review
Clare Wilkinson (mezzo)
Rose Consort of Viols
rec. Great Hall, Forde Abbey, Somerset, 26-28 November 2014. DDD.
Texts and translations included
DELPHIAN DCD34169 [67:20]

Loquebantur: Music from the Baldwin Partbooks
Details after review
The Marian Consort/Rory McCleery
Rose Consort of Viols
rec. Merton College, Oxford, 8-11 January 2015. DDD
Texts and translations included
DELPHIAN DCD34160 [66:12]

We seem to have received two copies of DCD34169: Gary Higginson has already reviewed it in some detail.  I enjoyed it as much as he did, so I need add only a few comments.

As he writes, the music is mostly sophisticated in nature, some of it which Catherine of Aragon may have brought with her from Spain, though the opening And I were a maiden is a little more rough and ready.  The point is that the lady in question is a maiden no longer and it receives an appropriately earthy rendition, with Clare Wilkinson adopting almost a folksy tone, though without overdoing it.  It serves as a reminder that the music associated with the court of Henry VIII, himself represented by the more refined Helas madame (track 4), was often jolly and even bawdy.  For more examples of the raunchier style check out the inexpensive Decca Eloquence reissue of The Tudors: Courtly Pastimes which also includes And I were a maiden and which I reviewed recently (4804865: St George’s Canzona/John Sothcott).

Henry VIII’s wives seem to have been good influences musically: a recent recording is devoted to music from a book which may have belonged to spouse No.2: Anne Boleyn’s Songbook, Obsidian CD715 – Download News 2015/10.

For the more refined music, both sacred and secular, which forms the bulk of the collection the Rose Consort offer performances as good as you are likely to hear from a viol consort and Clare Wilkinson puts aside her Mummerset opening mode to excellent effect in the vocal items.  An all-viol programme might have been a little too much of a good thing; as it is, the balance is just right.  With good recording and very helpful notes, this is a first-class album.


On DCD34160 the Rose Consort, who acquit themselves so well on the first album, assist the Marian Consort, whose recordings have also been well received by colleagues and myself:

Christmas with the Shepherds, DCD34145 – reviewreviewDL News 2015/1
O Virgo Benedicta, DCD34086 – review

I missed their earlier release of music from the Dow Partbooks but I listened to and enjoyed that recording from Qobuz – subscribers stream here; download here – but the lack of the booklet is a very serious handicap, as Qobuz don’t even indicate the composers’ names.  (An Emerald in a Work of Gold, DCD34115 – review).  If Naxos Music Library can offer the booklet, why do others not do so?  As on the new release, some of the items in that collection of Renaissance music, assembled by Robert Dow, a fellow of All Souls, Oxford, are performed by the highly accomplished Rose Consort of Viols, mostly on separate instrumental tracks but occasionally accompanying the singers.

On the new release the Rose Consort don’t accompany the vocal items but they top and tail the collection with instrumental works and intersperse others.  Some of these offer unfamiliar takes on popular tunes of the time, as in Elway Bevin’s Browning (track 8) where the familiar tune, also known as The Leaves be green, as set by Byrd – Recording of the MonthDL Roundup May 2011/2 – lies tantalisingly just under the surface.

The bulk of the new CD contains music from the Baldwin Partbooks, a collection made by John Baldwin, a lay clerk at St George’s, Windsor, and later a gentleman of the Chapel Royal.  Now housed at Christ Church, Oxford, like the Dow collection, they contain the compiler’s own choice of music, some of which might otherwise have been lost to us with the destruction of music for the Latin rite.  Fortunately Queen Elizabeth, whose inclinations were certainly not towards the extreme Protestant manifestations of the Reformation, approved of vestments and ceremonial and of such music being sung in her Chapel Royal.

The Baldwin Partbooks have come down to us incomplete, with the tenor part needing to be reconstructed from other sources or from scholarly conjecture.  Various editors are credited in the booklet and the results are fully convincing.

There is another very fine collection of music from these partbooks, around the theme of mortality, from Contrapunctus on Signum, recently released on SIGCD408 – reviewreview.  Fortunately there is only one items of overlap between that and the new Delphian, the Gerarde Sive vigilem, but Contrapunctus have expressed the intent to make a number of further releases from this collection and that’s my only, small, reservation in recommending the new CD.

In keeping with their theme, In the Midst of Life (we are in Death), Contrapunctus take that piece more slowly than on the new Delphian CD.  It didn’t occur to me at the time when I reviewed it that the music could be taken any other way, especially as the words relate to the sound of the trumpet heralding the Last Judgement, but the Marian Consort, in this the only other available recording, make an equally strong case for pacing it a little faster without seeming at all irreverent.  That isn’t due to any general tendency on their part to take the music here faster than on other recordings: in some cases, as we see below, the opposite is true.

The work which lends its name to the whole collection, Tallis’s Loquebantus variis linguis, might well have been sung in the Chapel Royal after Evensong on Whit Sunday: the text is taken from the reading from Acts of the Apostles prescribed for the Epistle on that day, describing the apostles speaking with ‘tongues’ after the descent of the Holy Spirit.  It was not until 1662 that the Book of Common Prayer prescribed the singing of an anthem at the end of Evensong1 with the quaint expression ‘in quires and places where they sing’, but that rubric describes a practice which dated from the old Latin rite, had already been established in Elizabeth’s reign and which prevails to this day in cathedrals and many Oxford and Cambridge colleges.

Baldwin bound the Byrd and Tallis 1575 printed collection of Cantiones Sacræ into his partbooks, so no reconstruction was needed for this work, though he also seems to have copied Tallis’s Loquebantur variis linguis by hand – presumably that is it in MS form on the cover of the CD.  There are many other very fine recordings, notably from The Tallis Scholars (Gimell CDGIM203, a two-for-one collection), Stile Antico (Harmonia Mundi HMU807595) and The Taverner Consort and Choir (a 2-CD super-budget release, Virgin 5622302).  The Gimell and Virgin albums come with other music by Tallis.

The Marian Consort pace the work slightly more slowly than The Tallis Scholars.  I was surprised to see that The Taverner Consort take even longer – a whole minute more – over their performance.  Chapelle du Roi, whose very distinguished Signum recordings of the complete works have been gathered together by Brilliant Classics and are offered at almost give-away price2, fall somewhere in the middle, though closer to The Scholars and the Marian Consort.  Even more surprisingly, though I should remember by now that paper timings often mean very little, there’s no sense that The Taverner Consort sound dilatory or that the others are unduly hurried.  Most importantly, the Marian Consort’s version on the new Delphian recording yields little if anything in any of those comparisons.

In such pieces where comparison is possible, it may be possible to prefer a greater degree of expressiveness in other performances, where the Marian Consort’s chief appeal is in their tonal beauty.  Many will feel this to be the case with the works duplicated on The Tudors at Prayer, a Linn recording on which Magnificat perform the two Mundy pieces and Tallis’s Suscipe, quæso Domine with perhaps a little more feeling (CKD447 – reviewreviewDownload News 2014/7).

Some of the music, however, is not otherwise available on CD.  Such a work is Ferrabosco the Elder’s Da pacem Domine, a beautiful setting, beautifully sung, of words familiar from the Prayer Book service of Mattins: ‘Give peace in our time, O Lord: for there is none other that fighteth for us but only Thou, O God.’  Unless and until Contrapunctus include this and Hollander’s3 Dum transisset sabbatum (track 11) in a forthcoming release, the Delphian recording will be worth having for these alone.

These, then, are two very successful releases from Delphian, well performed and recorded and with very useful notes, which specialists in the music of the period will wish to own.  Those discovering the rich treasury of sacred music of the period might be better to start with one of the collections of Tallis’s music which I have mentioned but both albums should also appeal to beginners.

1 The Elizabethan Prayer Book prescribes for Evensong on Whit Sunday a reading from Acts 19 which describes another occasion when a group of converts received the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues.

2 The 10-CD + CD-Rom set can be found for around £26.  The whole 11-hour set can be downloaded from Qobuz for £10.79 but without the all-important booklet.  Hyperion and offer downloads of the original single- or 2-CD releases: more expensive at £7.99 each, but they come with the all-important booklets of notes, texts and translations.

3 His name oddly transmogrified into ‘Mr Orlandus’ in the manuscript.

Brian Wilson

DCD34169 Details:
Anon: And I were a maiden* [2:16]
De tous biens plaine [2:48]
Fortuna desperata [1:14]
HENRY VIII (1491-1547) Helas madame * [1:44]
Hayne van GHIZEGHEM (c.1445-before 1497) De tous biens plaine * [6:09]
Josquin dez PREZ (c.1450-1521) De tous biens plaine [1:25]
Antoine BUSNOYS (c.1430-1492) (attrib.) Fortune esperée* [1:39]
Josquin dez PREZ Fortuna desperata [1:20]
Francisco da PENALOSA (c.1470-1528) Vita dulcedo / Agnus Dei II* [1:40]
Alexander AGRICOLA (1445/6-1506) Cecus non iudicat de coloribus [5:21]
Juan del ENCINA (1468-1529/30) Triste España * [2:46]
Johannes MARTINI (c.1430/40-1497) Des biens amors [2:07]
La martinella [2:15]
Josquin dez PREZ In te Domine speravi * [4:20]
Anon. In te Domine sperabo [2:05]
La quercia [2:09]
Biblis [2:12]
Juan del ENCINA Fata la parte * [1:53]
Anon. La Spagna [1:37]
Juan PONCE (c.1476-after 1520) La mi sola Laureola * [1:48]
William CORNYSH (d.1523) Fa la so [5:52]
Juan de ANCHIETA (1462-1523) Con amores, la mi madre * [3:05]
Heinrich ISAAC (c.1450-1517) Agnus Dei II [1:38]
Josquin dez PREZ Adieu mes amours * [7:42]
* with Clare Wilkinson (mezzo)

DCD34160 Details:
Robert PARSONS (c.1636-c.1572) The Song Called Trumpets [2:11]
Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585) Loquebantur variis linguis [3:59]
William MUNDY (c.1528-1591) Adolescentulus sum ego [5:12]
William BYRD (1539/40-1623) Canon Six in One [1:37]
O salutaris hostia [2:30]
Hugh ASTON (c.1485-1558) Hugh Aston’s Maske [4:23]
Derrick GERARDE (fl. c.1540-1580) Sive vigilem [5:17]
Elway BEVIN (c.1564-1632) Browning [3:11]
Alfonso FERRABOSCO I (1543-1588) Da pacem Domine [3:59]
Orlande de LASSUS (1530/2-1594) Ubi est Abel [2:43]
Christian HOLLANDER (c.1510-1568/9) Dum transisset Sabbatum [3:43]
Thomas TALLIS Suscipe quæso Domine [7:54]
John TAVERNER (c.1490-1545) Quemadmodum [4:13]
William MUNDY Adhæsit pavimento [7:09]
John BALDWIN (c.1560-1615) Coockow as I me walked [2:11]
John SHEPPARD (c.1515-1558) Ave maris stella [5:52]

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