on 10 September 2009
What a wonderful rendition of several of Taverner's works. The 16 do a beautiful job singing and they impart a certain dramatic flair to these renditions. As far as the voices go I don't think one could ask for better, although they have some impressive competition.
I wondered about the influences, beyond Josquin and Lassus, on Taverner and the English style. We can assume that Taverner knew of Josquin and Lassus, and probably Obrecht, as well as a number of other contemporaries of Taverner, but in doing a little web research there isn't much that's definite on this. I suppose it's buried somewhere in someone's Ph.D. dissertation on English Renaissance vocal music.
But I mention Obrecht for a reason, which is that he is known for reprising his melodies in retrograde form, and I thought I detected a few examples of that here. But other than that, I too don't have much to offer in the way of influences.
A few more miscellaneous comments, in the Western Wynde, the main melody is repeated nine times in each section, an allusion I assume to one of the Rules of St. Benedict (can't remember which one, but it had to do with a prayer or something being done nine times a day, if I remember right). Taverner often has the high voices enter high in contrary motion to the mean and lower voices. And I would have thought they were boys, not women. But they really are women.
Overall a very fine disk on several of Taverner's works.
This is just a gorgeous recording of a masterpiece of English polyphony. The Sixteen have recorded a number of Taverner's works and they are all good, this one seems to me the pick of the bunch. I bought it some years ago at full price, as a reissue on Helios this is a true bargain and you should snap it up
Italian polyphony of this period was strongly influenced by the Flemish school, notably through the presence of first Josquin and later Lassus in Rome. I would have liked the liner-note to tell me more, indeed to tell me anything, about what influences there may have been on the English style, or whether it was mainly an isolated phenomenon. The first item on this excellent record, and to my mind the finest, reminds me oddly of Palestrina. It is a 'Jesus antiphon' O Splendor Gloriae possibly written during Taverner's time at Cardinal College Oxford, as the then-new Christ Church was originally called until the fall of its founder Cardinal Wolsey. Nothing else given here resembles Palestrina, nor for that matter Lassus or Victoria. There is a very interesting Te Deum that alternates plainchant with polyphony and that contains some startling dissonances. The other items are a short Alleluia and the mass itself. The text set differs from that normally used in omitting the kyrie and part of the credo, this being apparently English practice. There are two things here that I don't understand in the liner-note. The first is the statement that 'the kyrie was not set, probably because its text would vary according to the feast or season'. The part of the mass that varies significantly according to the feast or season is the preface, which is not one of the sung parts in any setting known to me. The kyrie is about as minimalist a text as could well be imagined, and if my recollection serves the only variation is in omitting the last three 'kyrie eleison's on certain occasions. The other peculiarity is that the omitted section of the credo is solemnly printed, with translation, in square brackets and with a footnote telling us it has been omitted, something the author of the leaflet had told us anyway. Why, I wonder, are we not told who is not singing, who did not compose the music and where it is not being performed?
The Sixteen are a first-class ensemble whose work I had already got to know in Handel's Samson. The back of the leaflet lists seventeen of them (I counted three times) not including Harry Christophers himself. The high voices are women not boys, although there are male altos. They have quite a wide repertory extending into the 20th century, but one of their main specialisations has been early English polyphony, and I would have difficulty in imagining a better group from whom to acquire a knowledge of that particular school, although they have some formidable competition. I suppose I shall have to do my own research if I want to find out more, but the music is the main thing, and I have nothing but praise for the performances. The recording, dating from 1991, is also excellent.
on 20 May 2014
Beautiful singing, superb music, wonderfully clear recording, bargain price. This CD is part of a superb series by the Sixteen of the works of an Early tudor master. This mass was possibly the first in England to be based on a secular melody. The Te Deum is strikingly powerful and the mass itself a pure gem.