Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Peterhouse Partbooks

I am always thrilled to find someone who has a project that means so much to them when it may seem so obscure to anyone else. Herewith, Blue Heron, a group engaged in bringing the Peterhouse Partbooks from the early 16th century age of English Cathedral music to our attention:

Peterhouse’s Henrician partbooks are the most important extant source of English church music on the eve of the Reformation. The repertory of five-part polyphony that they contain is both large and varied, consisting of seventy-two compositions in the standard forms of the day—Mass, Magnificat, votive antiphon, ritual plainchant setting, and one or two pieces whose function is debatable—and more than half of these works do not survive in other sources. The composers represented (twenty- nine, plus one anonymous) range from those widely admired both at the time and also today, such as Robert Fayrfax and John Taverner, whose careers are relatively well documented and whose music is ubiquitous in sources of the period, to the most obscure, such as Hugh Sturmy, whose careers have yet to be traced and whose music survives nowhere else. The musical quality of the collection is generally very high, and many pieces (by no means only those by well-known composers) show not only skilled craftsmanship but also marked imagination and strong character.

The cover above is for the first of five cds of music from the Peterhouse Partbooks, containing the titular Three Marian Antiphons by Hugh Aston, a Magnificat by Robert Jones and Quales sumus O miseri by John Mason. You can read the complete CD liner notes here.

Their second cd, cover (?) above contains:
Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks, Volume 2

Nicholas Ludford (c1490-1557): Missa Regnum mundi
Sarum plainchant · Proper for the Feast of Saint Margaret
Richard Pygott (c1485-1549): Salve regina

Restored by Nick Sandon

The second installment in Blue Heron’s 5-CD series of Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks features Nicholas Ludford’s radiant Missa Regnum mundi, sung in a musical context like that of its probable original occasion, a festal mass for St Margaret, with plainchant items from the Proper according to the Use of Salisbury. The disc concludes with Richard Pygott’s extraordinary Salve regina, one of the longest votive antiphons extant and a marvel of rhetorical expression.

This is the world premiere recording of all the music on the disc.

More on ordering the discs from the Blue Heron website here.

1 comment:

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