Sunday, January 4, 2015

It's Still Christmas! The Pasche, Merbecke, Ludford, and Tallis Edition

This is another CD we've listed to several times this Christmas season:

The Peterhouse Partbooks, a set of partbooks copied around 1540 belonging to Peterhouse, Cambridge, is one of the most important sources of English Latin church music leading up to the Reformation.

Dr. Nick Sandon has spent a large part of his life reconstructing music from the Peterhouse Partbooks. This album contains music from this beloved collection. Dr. Sandon has meticulously reconstructed the tenor parts in tracks 1-3 and has supplied some of the soprano part in track 4 with precision and artistry in order to provide us a sense of the sound world and the expressive writing of Pasche, Merbecke, Ludford and Tallis in the early 16th century.

There are just four selections:

1. William Pasche (fl. early 16th c.) – MAGNIFICAT

2. John Merbecke (c.1510-1585) – AVE DEI PATRIS FILIA

3. Nicholas Ludford (c.1485-1557) – SALVE REGINA ​

4. Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585) – AVE ROSA SINE SPINIS

The last hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary weaves the Ave Maria (as it was then prayed, without the section asking Mary to pray for us now and at the hour of our death) into the praise of the Mother of God:

AVE rosa sine spinis,
Te quam Pater in divinis
Majestate sublimavit,
Et ab omni vae servavit.
MARIA stella dicta maris,
Tu a Nato illustraris
Luce clara deitatis,
Qua praefulges cunctis datis.
GRATIA PLENA: te perfecit
Spiritus Sanctus dum te fecit
Vas divinae bonitatis
Et totius pietatis.
DOMINUS TECUM: miro pacto
Verbo in te carne facto
Opere trini conditoris:
o quam dulce vas amoris.
Hoc testatur omnis tribus;
Coeli dicunt te beatam
Et super omnes exaltatam.
Quo nos semper dona frui
Per praegustum hic aeternum
Et post mortem in aeternum: Amen.

I did spot one error in the liner notes written by Dr. Nick Sandon:

The Magnificat—the poetic version of the Blessed Virgin’s response to the Annunciation (sic) given in St Luke’s Gospel (1:46–55)—was the centrepiece of the evening service of Vespers, the pre-Reformation equivalent of Anglican Evensong.

The Magnificat is the Blessed Virgin's response to St. Elizabeth's greeting at what we call the Visitation in the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. And Vespers are not just the "pre-Reformation equivalent of Anglican Evensong" as they are still sung and celebrated in the Catholic Church.

The booklet accompanying the CD provides analysis of each work. As Dr. Sandon comments, these Peterhouse Partbooks, compiled after the Dissolution of the Abbey at Canterbury, indicate the relative conservatism of the Henrician Reformation, especially with these works honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary, displaying traditional Marian devotion. To these works, however, we would have to juxtapose the destruction of Marian shrines throughout England, wrecking the heritage of Mary's Dowry. 

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