Monday 22 October 2018

Music for Windy Instruments: Sounds from the court of King James I

Music for Windy INstruments - English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble
Music for Windy Instruments: Sounds from the court of King James I; English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble; Resonus Classics Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 10 October 2018 Star rating: 3.5 (★★★½)
A window onto the sounds heard at the court of King James I

In an age before amplification, filling large spaces with music required loud, penetrating instruments. And the ensemble of cornetts and sackbuts filled such a purpose. Arising out of the ensembles of shawms and sackbuts which provided outdoor dance music, in the early 17th century ensembles of cornetts and sackbuts provided music for ceremonial and court activities in the larger state rooms of the palaces at the courts of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. Music for the more intimate privy chambers being provided by quieter, more intimate instruments.

This new disc from the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble on Resonus Classics explores the music of the Elizabethan and Jacobean courts with a selection of 20 or so pieces for cornetts and sackbuts, and a contrasting trio of works for harpsichord.

The cornett and sackbut works all come from the set of part books preserved in the Fitzwilliam Museum, the earliest layer of the manuscript being copied in 1615 and this gives us a snapshot of what the court musicians were playing. These musicians were often from the same group of families, frequently immigrant Continental musicians, and the repertoire in the manuscript suggests that the musicians kept up their Continental contacts.

The musicians themselves contributed dances, there are half a dozen on this disc written by members of the various wind ensembles, flute players James Harding and Nicholas Guy, recorder players Augustine and Jerome Bassano and cornett player John Adson.

But the more serious pieces are essentially transcriptions of Continental sacred and secular music by Orazio Vecchi, Orlande de Lassus, Alfonso Ferrabosco, Giovanni Croce and Giovanii Ferretti. And they are performed pretty straight, though the ensembles perform them at high pitch, whereas the singers of the period would probably have transposed them down. It is an intriguing thought, how did the courtiers react to having Roman Catholic sacred music played as a back drop to the ritual of a Protestant court? Or didn't they notice.

The result is an attractive and intriguing disc, providing us with a window onto the sound world of the Jacobean court. The three harpsichord pieces, by Peter Phillips and Orlande de Lassus add a nice contrast.

The English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble use a pool of eight players for the pieces, most of which are in six parts and the players use a variety of instruments, depending on the music. This could have been quite a dry, academic disc, but the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble bring the music alive. They contribut superb technical skill and play with an involving sense of engagement.

1 Orazio Vecchi (1550-1605) - Saltavan ninfe [1:46]
2 Orlando de Lassus (1530-1594) - In te Domine speravi (prima pars) [3:01]
3 Orlando de Lassus - Quoniam fortitudo mea (secunda pars) [3:20]
4 Alfonso Ferrabosco I (1543-1588) - Interdette speranze [3:57]
5 Luca Marenzio (1552-1599) - Talché, dovunque vò [2:30]
6 Peter Philips (1560-1599) - Amarilli di Julio Romano [3:27]
7 Augustine Bassano (died 1604) - Pavan [3:02]
8 Thomas Lupo (1571-1627) - Almain in D [0:53]
9 Jeronimo Bassano (1480-1545) - Almain in D [0:51]
10 Alfonso Ferrabosco II (1575-1628) - Almain in D [1:30]
11 Orlando de Lassus - Mon coeur sa recommande [1:47]
12 Giovanni Croce (1557-1609) - Ove tra l’herba [2:41]
13 Alfonso Ferrabosco I - Exaudi, Deus, orationem meam (prima pars) [3:34]
14 Alfonso Ferrabosco I - Quoniam declinaverunt in me (secunda pars) [3:10]
15 Orazio Vecchi - Gitene, canzonette [1:37]
16 Orlando de Lassus - Le Rossignuol [3:22]
17 Alfonso Ferrabosco I - Se lungi dal mio sol (prima pars) [2:36]
18 Alfonso Ferrabosco I - Sola voi no’l sentite (secunda pars) [3:10]
19 Jerome Bassano (1559-1635) - Fantastia [3:07]
20 Peter Philips - Fece da voi [3:05]
21 Giovanni Ferretti (1504-1609) - Un pastor chies’ ad una ninfa amore [1:52]
22 Giovanni Ferretti - Dolc’amorose e leggiadrette ninfe [1:56]
23 John Adson (1587-1640) - Air [1:01]
24 James Harden (1574-1626)- Almain [1:17]
25 Anonymous - Almain [1:05]
English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble (Gawain Glenton, Conor Hastings, Andrea Inghisciano, Nicholas Perry, Emily White, Tom Lees Catherine Motus, Adrian France, Silas Wollston)
Recorded All Saints Church, Stroud, Glos on 26-28 January 2018
Available from Amazon.

Elsewhere on this blog:
  • Independent Opera Showcase Recital at Wigmore Hall (★★★½) - concert review
  • Damn fine music: Stanford's Mass Via Victrix (1914-1918) receives its belated premiere  - feature
  • A visit to Italy at the Oxford Lieder Festival (★★★★) - concert review
  • Untold riches - music from Estonia & the Baltic at the Oxford Lieder Festival (★★★★) - concert review
  • Southbank Sinfonia and Vladimir Ashkenazy in Grieg, Prokofiev and Beethoven (★★★★)  concert review
  • A Bernstein Celebration - London English Song Festival - concert review
  • Hansel & Gretel: a nightmare in eight scenes (★★★) - theatre review
  •  Something for everyone: Gershwin's Porgy and Bess from English National Opera (★★★★)  - opera review
  •  Handel's Radamisto from English Touring Opera (★★★★½) - Opera review
  • Portrait of a life (or many): Art songs from the African diaspora (★★★★) - concert review
  • Crowd-funding & collaboration: new choral music from Lumen  - interview
  • Double concerto for bandoneon and violin (★★★½) - CD review
  • The choral music of Richard Allain (★★★½) - CD review
  • Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots returns to the Paris Opera - Opera review
  •  Home

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