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In Nomine II
rec. 2017/18, St Mary Magdalen Church, Sherborne, UK
Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from

Back in 1988 the Amon Ra label released a recording entitled In Nomine by a then little-known group called Fretwork (CDSAR029). Though it was their second recording, it was the first to be released, and it was well received. It contained all the music with that name by or attributed to Thomas Tallis, together with music by other composers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Since then, this Consort of Viols has recorded with distinction for a variety of labels, either alone or in support of others, as in the case of their recording of the verse anthems of Orlando Gibbons, with Magdalena Consort and His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts (SIGCD511 – review Autumn 2017/3).

That Gibbons recording contains three examples of the musical form known as an In Nomine, a strange and peculiarly English affair, sixteen examples of which are included on the new release. If the name Alfonso Ferrabosco II makes you think him the odd one out, he was the son of an Italian musician who had settled in England. (You have no doubt guessed that he was Alonso Ferrabosco I.) Where the father was known for his madrigals and sacred music, his (illegitimate) son was a viol player and composer and so highly respected by Queen Elizabeth I that she refused to allow him to leave to join his father when he returned to Italy.

The In Nomine derives from the Sarum plainsong Gloria tibi Trinitas, or, rather, from the Mass of that name by the early Tudor composer John Taverner. At the words Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini – blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord – Taverner uses the plainsong almost unadorned, and that was the point of origin of the instrumental form of that name. Many more details can be found in the very good notes in the booklet.

It may seem a very dull project to devote two whole CDs to arrangements of this form – more, actually, if you count the odd items on the Gibbons and other Fretwork recordings – but so varied and imaginative is the music on both recordings that you are unlikely to doze off, especially if you try to spot the underlying tune throughout these pieces. English composers became as obsessed with the In Nomine as European composers would be at a slightly later date with the tune La Folia, also known as Les Folies d’Espagne, and they did more interesting and more varied things with their material.

The new recording is even more varied than before, with tributes from modern composers Nico Muhly and Gavin Briars included. And Fretwork are the masters and mistresses of the In Nomine. They have almost cornered the market, though other groups contain examples in their recordings, such as is the case with Phantasm’s collection of the consort music of Byrd (Linn CKD372: Recording of the Month – review DL Roundup May 2011/2). In fact, with nothing by Byrd on the new Fretwork recording, I suggest that you also check out the Linn recording or the earlier Amon Ra Fretwork album, still available, on CD and download, which contains two In Nomines by Byrd.

I hope that this new recording will also encourage listeners to go back to where it all began, with Taverner’s setting of the Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas; there are fine recordings by The Tallis Scholars (Gimell CDGIM045, with Magnificats: Recording of the Month – review DL News 2013/15), Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Oxford (Avie AV2123, with other choral music by Taverner – review), Queen’s College Oxford (Signum SIGCD570, with other choral music by Taverner – Spring 2019/1 review) and The Sixteen (Hyperion mid-price CDH55052, with Audivi vocem, or 10-CD budget box CDS44401/10: Bargain of the Month – review). Incidentally, Fretwork make a distinguished appearance in that highly recommendable Hyperion Golden Age of English Polyphony box set.

We once suggested to a friend that she should listen to the Hyperion recording of the music of Abbess Hildegard of Bingen, A Feather on the Breath of God (CDA66039). It was obvious that she was sceptical about what to expect, but then sat entranced by that beautiful recording. I’m not suggesting that the new Fretwork CD of sixteen pieces on the same theme will be quite as ear-opening, but I think it may not be far behind. Give it a try – and then go for Volume I.

Brian Wilson

Nico MUHLY (b.1981)
Slow (In Nomine in 5 Parts) [8:18]
Robert PARSONS (1535-1572)
In Nomine IV 7 [2:29]
In Nomine V in 7 parts [3:03]
John BULL (c.1562-1628)
In Nomine in 11/4 [5:37]
John BALDWIN (1560-1615)
Proportions to the Minim [2:31]
Upon In Nomine 1592 [1:36]
In Nomine 1606 [2:19]
Alfonso FERRABOSCO II (1575-1628)
In Nomine in 6 Parts, No.1 [3:45]
In Nomine in 6 Parts, No.2 [4:07]
In Nomine Through All the Parts [5:47]
Gavin BRYARS (b.1943)
In Nomine [9:16]
John WARD (c.1589-1638)
In Nomine a5 [3:19]
Christopher TYE (1505-c.1573)
Reporte [1:46]
Howlde Fast [1:09]
In Nomine ‘Re la re’ [1:22]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Seven-Part In Nomine, Z.747, ‘Dorian’ [3:39]

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