Tuesday 17 November 2015

Loquebantur - Music from the Baldwin Partbooks

Loquebantur - Marian Consort, Rose Consort of Viols
Music from the Baldwin Partbooks - Robert Parsons, Thomas Tallis, William Mundy, William Byrd, Hugh Asston, Derrick Gerarde, Elway Bevin, Alfonso Ferrabosco, Orlande de Lassus, Christian Hollander, John Tavener, John Baldwin and John Sheppard; The Marian Consort, Rose Consort of Viols; Delphian
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Nov 11 2015
Star rating: 4.5

Engagingly intelligent and musical performances of music from an important Tudor collection

The Baldwin Part Books are a set of manuscript part-books currently in the library at Christ Church College, Oxford. Created in the late 16th century they are an important source of Tudor church music. The contents of the part-books run to over 160 motets in manuscript so a complete overview on CD is not possible. For this new single-disc sample on Delphian, Rory McCleery and The Marian Consort (Emma Walshe, Gwendolen Martin sopranos, Daniel Collins, Rory Mcleery counter tenors, Guy Cutting, Ashley Turnell tenors, Rupert Reid baritone, Christopher Borrett bass), director Rory McLeery, sing a selection of motets from the part-books, whilst the Rose Consort of Viols (Ibi Aziz, John Bryan, Alison Crum, Andrew Kerr, Roy Marks, Peter Wendland) plays the items for viols. The selection of music on the disc is quite varied with works by Robert Parsons, Thomas Tallis, William Mundy, William Byrd, Hugh Aston, Derrick Gerarde, Elway Bevin, Alfonso Ferrabosco, Orlande de Lassus, Christian Hollander, John Tavener, John Baldwin and John Sheppard.

As with many part-books from the period, the Baldwin Part Books are incomplete and the tenor book is missing so that pieces have to be re-constructed using material from elsewhere, but sixty of the pieces are unique to the part-books which mean that imagination has to be used. Sometimes the tenor part can be completed simply by taking the original plainchant around which the piece was built, but where this cannot work then an editor gets involved. On this disc three of the pieces have new tenor parts - Mundy's Adhaesit pavimento, John Sheppard's Ave maris stella, Derrick Gerarde's Sive vigilem.

John Baldwin (c1560-1615) was a tenor lay clerk at St George's Windsor in 1575, becoming a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1598 and singing at the funerals of Elizabeth I and Prince Henry, and the coronation of James I. He was responsible for the collation and copying no only of the Baldwin Part Books but also John Baldwin's Commonplace Book and was the copyist for My Ladye Nevells Booke a compendium of keyboard music by William Byrd.

Baldwin included printed material in the Baldwin Part Books so that in addition to the 160 plus pieces in manuscript, the contents of William Byrd and Thomas Tallis's Cantiones Sacrae of 1575 is bound up as well with Baldwin selecting the manuscript motets so that there are no duplications.

The manuscript selection is very wide ranging with polyphonic settings of hymns and responds, large-scale Marian antiphons, canticles, a mass, lamentations and motets. There is also untexted consort music for between three and six parts. On this disc the Marian Consort sing the texted music one singer to a part, whilst the Rose Consort of Viols plays the untexted consort music.

The Marian Consort's style is very much that of a vocal ensemble, and rather than over-blending the voices we get vibrant ensembles of individual lines. But whilst, individual voices are clear the results are carefully balanced to ensure finely calibrated whole. Individual lines are sung with a lovely combination of line and vibrancy. In fact a sense of  shapely line is something that you really take away from these performances, with the individual singers clearly listening and shaping. My only complaint is that one of the sopranos has a vibrato which develops a trifle over much on longer notes.

In style the music is very varied, ranging from pieces which are clearly indebted to older compositional forms such as William Mundy's Adhaesit paviment which is essentially a votive antiphon. Remarkably forward looking, despite being by one of the oldest composer's in the part books is Quemadmodum by John Taverner, whilst Mundy's Adolescentulus sum ego shows the composer looking forward rather than backward.

There are foreign composers too, including Derrick Gerarde who may have been Flemish, Alfonso Ferrabosco I (of whom Baldwin in his common place book said that Italians say of him: in skill he had no peer), Orlandus Lassus and Christian Hollander (though the part-book get confused with attributions here).

The two composers who received pride of place in the books were John Sheppard (41 works) and William Byrd (31 works). The disc concludes with Sheppard's gorgeous, large-scale Ave maris stella which is a work I had not come across before and certainly hope to again. It is an alternim setting, alternating evocatively sung plainchant with Sheppard's superb polyphony in seven parts. The performers us a quite low key I think, so that the treble part is not too ridiculously high, resulting a persuasive and poised performance.

The Rose Consort of Viols give a welcome change of texture with the consort pieces, which vary from three to six parts. Some, such as Hugh Aston's Maske, Browning and The Song Called Trumpets seem to be secular and the instrumentalists give a lovely rhythmic impetus to the details. But sacred works such as John Taverner's Quaemadmodum, and Lassus's Ubi est Abel are here too.

CD booklet includes an admirably extensive booklet article by Rory McCleery (though the publicity image of The Marian Consort on its back cover includes at least one person who is no longer a member and misses off at least one member who is on the recording).

This is a lovely disc, giving us a feel for the rather distinctive texture of the selection of works from the Baldwin Part Books. But above that, the performances finely musical and completely absorbing so that you can enjoy the disc irrespective of the music's origins.

Robert Parsons (c1535-c1572) - The Song Called Trumpets
Thomas Tallis (c1505-1585) - Loquebantur variis linguis
William Mundy (c1528-1591) - Adolescentulus sum ego
William Byrd (1539/40-1623) - Canon Six in One
Byrd - O salutaris hostia
Hugh Aston (c1485-1558) - Hugh Aston's Maske
Derrick Gerarde (fl1540-1580) - Sive vigilem
Eway Bevain (c1554-1638) - Browning
Alfronso Ferrabosco I (1543-1588) - Da pacem Domine
Orlande de Lassue (1530/2 - 1594) - Ubi est Abel
Christian Hollander (c1510-1568/9) - Dum transisset Sabbtum
Tallis - Suscipe quaso Domine
John Taverner (c1490-1545) - Quemadmodum
Mundy - Adhaesit pavimento
John Baldwin (c1560 - 1615) - Coocow as I me walked
John Sheppard (c1515 - 1558) - Ave maris stella
The Marian Consort (Emma Walshe, Gwendolen Martin, Daniel Collins, Rory McCleery, Guy Cutting, Ashley Turnell, Rupert Reid, Chrisopher Borrett), director Rory McCleery
Rose Consort of Viols (Ibi Aziz, John Bryan, Alison Crum, Andrew Kerr, Roy Marks, Peter Wendland)
Recored 8-11 January 2015 in Chapel of Merton College, Oxford
DELPHIAN DCD34160 1CD [66.12]
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