Image: The Concert by Hendrick ter Brugghen

Notes from Geoffrey Whittington, choir member, relating to the repertoire to be sung on 1 April 2023:

Missa Salve (Gloria) – Victoria
Officium Defunctorum (Introit) – Victoria
‘Ave Maria’ – Victoria
Tomas Luis de Victoria (1548 – 1611) was arguably the greatest Spanish composer of the Renaissance and a mainstay of our programmes. Although born and dying in Spain, for a large part of his early career he worked in Rome. His music is fresh and expressive. The 8-part Ave Maria is a relatively early and conventional work. The 8-part Gloria from the Missa Salve features parts operating at contrasting note speeds, finishing off with a joyous triple-time section. The Officium Defunctorum mass is a late work, written for the funeral of the dowager Empress Maria, sister of King Philip II of Spain in 1603.

‘Duo Seraphim’ a12 – Guerrero
‘Regina Caeli’ – Guerrero
Franciso Guerrero (1527 – 1599) is another Spanish composer this choir has had a long association with. He worked at Seville and Jaen but also travelled to Italy. He produced many masses and motets and his music is expressive and sophisticated.
The Duo Seraphim is an unusual three-choir work giving an impression of (almost) surround sound to the audience.

‘Versa Est in Luctum’ – Lobo
Alonso Lobo (1555-1617) was a Spanish composer of the late Renaissance. Lobo’s music combines the smooth contrapuntal technique of Palestrina with the sombre intensity of Victoria. ‘Versa Est in Luctum’ is probably his best-known work, written on the death of Philip II in 1598. It is interesting to compare this 6-part setting with Palestrina’s setting of the same words.

‘Ave regina caelorum’ – Lassus
‘Alma Redemptoris mater’ – Lassus
Missa Bell’ Amfitrit altera (Agnus) – Lassus
Orlande de Lassus (1532-1594) was born in Flanders, but worked all over Europe, including France and Italy. He spent most of his career at the Bavarian court in Munich. As well as the sacred music we are performing, Lassus was also successful with madrigals and chansons. The 6-part Ave Regina and the 8-part Alma Redemptoris are powerful, serious works often using suspensions to increase the tension. Lassus’ works have rich sonorities.

Mass for 5 voices (Sanctus/Benedictus) – Byrd
William Byrd (1540 – 1623) was prolific and although he undoubtedly always remained a Catholic, he shrewdly managed to stay in favour throughout Elizabeth’s reign. He contributed to virtually all the musical genres of his day. These are two of the most perfect movements from a justly famous mass by one of England’s greatest composers. They have a beautiful serenity, smoothness and sense of perfection.

Lamentations (from ‘Job’ to ‘Jerusalem’) – White
Robert White (1538-1574) is regarded as one of the most important Elizabethan composers of Latin-texted motets for domestic use. This wonderfully dark, solemn work reflects the sadness of Catholic composers like White who were not permitted to follow their faith in Protestant England.

Missa Cantate (Sanctus) – Sheppard
Not much is known about John Sheppard (1515 – 1558) but he was Gentleman at the Chapel Royal most of his life. His Latin-texted works are impressive for their rhythmic energy and rich sonority. This movement in 6 voices in 3/2 time is complex, demanding real concentration from the singers.

Missa Papae Marcelli (Kyrie) – Palestrina
Assumpta est Maria (prima pars) – Palestrina
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1524-1594) has been regarded as the father of Renaissance sacred music. He dominated Italian church music of the 16th Century and his style of restrained beauty is revered as a perfect fit for Catholic texts. Our choir will for a long time remember singing the Missa Papae Marcelli mass at Palestrina’s church in his home town Palestrina near Rome when we were on tour in 2016. This opening movement has lovely quaver runs for each part. The Assumpta est Maria motet is a bright piece in two halves that was written in a later style where there are chords to emphasize certain key words between more free-running passages.

‘Inviolata, integra es Maria’ – (Beguine School) ed. Gambie
This work was transcribed by our MD, Peter Gambie, from a score from around 1550 in the Beguinages School at Turnhout, Belgium. It is an example of the “organum” style out of which Renaissance music developed and gives a strong impression of the sound world of an ancient Flemish monastery.

The three Spanish secular works E la don don Verges Maria, Riu, Riu, Chiu and La Tricotea are included to show a sample of the popular street music one might have heard in Spain in the sixteenth century. They are all lively, often with interesting cross-rhythms.

Netherlandish Proverbs is a 1559 oil-on-oak-panel painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder that depicts a scene in which humans and, to a lesser extent, animals and objects, offer literal illustrations of Dutch-language proverbs and idioms.
All images of the artworks reproduced on this page are public domain, free-to-use images obtained from Wikimedia Commons.