Thursday, January 10, 2019

Catholic Composers in Exile

Stile Antico has a new CD coming out tomorrow, focusing on the Catholic composers who fled in England and composed sacred and secular works on the Continent:

The regime of Queen Elizabeth I dealt harshly with supporters of the old Catholic religion. Torn between obedience and conscience, some of England’s most talented musicians – Philips, Dering and Dowland – chose a life of exile abroad. Others chose to remain in spiritual isolation in England, comparing themselves to the exiled Israelites in Babylon. Amongst them were Robert White, whose five-part Lamentations are one of the glories of English music of any age, and William Byrd, whose anguished Catholic music is referenced in Shakespeare’s enigmatic poem The Phoenix and the Turtle, vividly set by Huw Watkins especially for Stile Antico, and receiving its first recording here.

The works on the CD are:

John Dowland [1562/1563-1626] Flow, my tears  
William Byrd [1543-1623] Tristitia et anxietas  
Richard Dering [-] Factum est silentium 
John Dowland [1562/1563-1626] In this trembling shadow 
Peter Philips [1560-1628] Gaude Maria virgo 
Philippe de Monte [1521-1603] Super flumina Babylonis 
William Byrd [1543-1623] Quomodo cantabimus  
Peter Philips [1560-1628] Regina cæli lætare  
Huw Watkins [01/01/1976-] The Phoenix and the Turtle  
Robert White [1538-1574] Lamentations 

Other CDs have matched Philippe de Monte and William Byrd's settings of portions of Psalm 136. The inclusion of John Dowland is interesting, because his music was very popular at Elizabeth's Court and even as he travelled in exile--he had converted to Catholicism in Paris while in the service of two English ambassadors in the early 1580's--he wanted a Court position. He wrote to Sir Robert Cecil in 1595 that he had reverted to Anglicanism, according to Peter Warlock's chronology.

I'm not familiar with the work of Huw Watkins, but you can hear an excerpt from his setting of Shakespeare's poem, which some suggest refers to St. Anne Line and her exiled husband Roger Line. Including a new work reflecting on that era reminds me of the ORA project, which started with a commissioned work by Alexander L'Estrange, "Show me, deare Christ", contrasting John Donne, St. Edmund Campion, and St. Robert Southwell.

It makes sense that artists appreciate the struggle of artists against any censorship or oppression, but in the field of English Recusant History, as I've noted before, sympathy for Catholic composers during the English Reformation and after has been clear in the many CD releases.

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