Krzysztof Penderecki

Krzysztof Penderecki
Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020) conducting his oratorio "Seven Gates of Jerusalem" at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg, in 2001. Photo by Dmitry Lovetsky

Monday, February 27, 2017

Johannes Ockeghem: Missa L'homme armé, Missa quinti toni – Beauty Farm (Download 44.1kHz/16bit)

One of the most striking features of renaissance music is the ­assiduous re-use of musical material: composers strived more for artful and ingenious re-working than invention. There is no ­better example of this than a short song calling for man to take up arms  L'homme armé. At any rate, this simple but spiritually and politically meaningful melody was employed more often than any other as the so-called cantus firmus in some forty mass settings dating from 1450 to 1600 by almost every prominent composer of the time. Appropriately enough, its martial character serves as a battlefield for each to jostle for position with regard to his predecessor in finding ever newer and more refined techniques of treatment.

Even if the origins of this prodigious tradition may seem relatively unimportant, there are enough convincing arguments to suggest that Johannes Ockeghem's Missa L'homme armé, composed around 1455, may have been the first of its kind. Primarily, for such a subtle and subversive composer as Ockeghem, it is remarkably simply written: the melody appears straightforwardly in the tenor once each in the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus, twice in the ­Gloria and almost three times in the Credo. In this movement, the melody breaks off after the middle section of its last statement and is also transposed down a fifth. In the Agnus Dei it is even transposed down an octave, bringing it into the lowest bass register so that the final part of the mass sounds altogether darker and, with numerous flat signs, more melancholic. With its lengthy, beseeching duets and sombre ending, the third Agnus expresses a moving plea for peace at the end of a mass on the ­armed man.

Another argument for assigning an early composition date is that the cantus firmus is only seldom taken up (but then quite audibly) in the other voices. In the Credo, a fanfare-like motive is repeated throughout all voices to the words "et iterum" (and He shall come again) and, for the Holy Ghost, "qui cum patre et filio simul adoratur" (who, with the Father and the Son, is together adored) the melody's striking opening phrase is heard in three voice parts. Both examples can be interpreted as symbolic word painting.

Since the 16th century, Ockeghem has been stuck with the reputation (based on only a few works) of being an eccentric experimenter and constructor of canons. Yet his only authentic three-part mass, the Missa quinti toni, would suffice to refute this view once and for all. With its steady rhythmic pace, clear structure and bright modality (the "fifth tone" of the title is a near equivalent of the modern F major) this piece reveals Ockeghem's calm and lyrical side. Fabrice Fitch admiringly classifies this mass as "understatement": the smallest phrase spun out in the tenor ­suffices as an opening motif for all five movements. Although apparently freely composed, a "motivic network" of falling thirds and rising scales suggest an inner coherence and, perhaps, a lost model such as a chanson. In any case, it is often reminiscent of the intimate art song of the time, its numerous imitations for example recalling the chansons of Ockeghem's colleague Antoine Busnoys.

Specific circumstances surrounding its creation may be responsible for the restrained character and limited number of voices. There again, the work is quite expansive both in length and vocal range, spanning two and a half octaves from the highest note in the descant to the lowest note in the bass. Only a handful of Ockeghem's three-part chansons ("Baisies moy" and "Fors seullement") exceed this range. This results in an unusually wide tonal spectrum, and a clear division of registers makes it easy to follow each individual voice. The freedom of melodic invention and the occasional unexpected inflection show that this is the work of a composer intentionally keeping his abundant imagination in check and, in the second Agnus, where the lengthiest upper voice duet of the whole movement is followed by a shy, note by note bass entrance, unafraid of displaying an underlying sense of humour.

Wolfgang Fuhrmann
Translated from the German: Roderick Shaw

Beauty Farm founded 2014 by Markus Muntean and Bernhard Trebuch is a vocal group focused to the Franco-Flemish polyphony of the renaissance. The international ensemble is based in the carthusian monastery at Mauerbach (Austria). The singers are members of well known ensembles. Beauty Farm exclusively records for frabernardo.

Το φωνητικό σύνολο γαλλο-φλαμανδικής πολυφωνικής μουσικής, Beauty Farm, ερμηνεύει δύο Λειτουργίες του σπουδαίου Φλαμανδού συνθέτη της Αναγέννησης, Γιοχάνες Όκεγχεμ. Τη Missa L'homme armé για τέσσερεις φωνές, η οποία γράφτηκε γύρω στο 1455, και τη Missa quinti toni για τρεις φωνές, η οποία εθεωρείτο έργο της πρώιμης περιόδου του συνθέτη αλλά πρόσφατες μελέτες τη χρονολογούν γύρω στο 1470, γεγονός που την καθιστά προϊόν της ώριμης περιόδου του Όκεγχεμ.

Το φωνητικό σύνολο Beauty Farm, του οποίου το έργο επικεντρώνεται στη γαλλο-φλαμανδική πολυφωνική μουσική της Αναγέννησης, ιδρύθηκε το 2014 από τους Markus Muntean και Bernhard Trebuch. Το Beauty Farm έχει έδρα του το καρθουσιανό μοναστήρι του 1314, το οποίο λεηλατήθηκε και πυρπολήθηκε από οθωμανικά στρατεύματα κατά τη διάρκεια της Πολιορκίας της Βιένης το 1529 και ξαναχτίστηκε τον 17ο και τον 18ο αιώνα, στην αυστριακή πόλη Μαουερμπάχ.

Το άλμπουμ ηχογραφήθηκε στην εκκλησία του καρθουσιανού μοναστηριού στην πόλη Μαουερμπάχ, στην Αυστρία, τον Ιούλιο του 2015 και τον Μάιο του 2016, και κυκλοφόρησε από την αυστριακή δισκογραφική εταιρεία Fra Bernardo το 2017.

[The original video was removed for "copyright reasons"]

Download the CD

from NitroFlare or RapidGator or TurboBit

(44.1kHz/16bit), Size / Μέγεθος: 310,59 MB

For converting FLAC files to WAV (recommended), Apple Lossless, M4A, AAC, WMA, MP3, use the Free Studio / Free Audio Converter or xrecode II or another program.

If the links are dead,  please let us know.

Johannes Ockeghem (c.1420-1497)

♪ Missa L'homme armé a 4 (c.1455) [00:00]*

i. Kyrie
ii. Gloria
iii. Credo
iv. Sanctus
v. Agnus Dei

♪ Missa quinti toni a 3 (c.1470) [29:56]

i. Kyrie
ii. Gloria
iii. Credo
iv. Sanctus
v. Agnus Dei

Beauty Farm:

Bart Uvyn, countertenor
Adriaan De Koster, tenor
Hannes Wagner, tenor
Christoph Drescher, baritone
Martin Vögerl, baritone
Joachim Höchbauer, bass

Recording: Chartreuse at Mauerbach, Church, Austria, July 2015 & May 2016

Fra Bernardo 2017

Cover: Muntean & Rosenblum

(HD 1080p – Audio video)

* Start time of each work

Johannes Ockeghem (far right, with glasses) directing his singers.
Detail of a 15th Century painting.
Johannes Ockeghem was the most famous composer of the Franco-Flemish School in the last half of the 15th century, and is often considered the most influential composer between Guillaume Dufay and Josquin des Prez. In addition to being a renowned composer, he was also an honored singer, choirmaster, and teacher.

The spelling of Ockeghem's name comes from a supposed autograph of his which survived as late as 1885, and was reproduced by Eugène Giraudet, a historian in Tours; the document has since been lost. In 15th-century sources, the spelling "Okeghem" predominates.

Ockeghem is believed to have been born in Saint-Ghislain, Belgium. His birthdate is unknown; dates as early as 1410 and as late as 1430 have been proposed. The earlier date is based on the possibility that he knew Binchois in Hainaut before the older composer moved from Mons to Lille in 1423. Ockeghem would have to have been younger than 15 at the time. This particular speculation derives from Ockeghem's reference, in the lament he wrote on the death of Binchois in 1460, to a chanson by Binchois dated to that time. In this lament Ockeghem not only honored the older composer by imitating his style, but also revealed some useful biographical information about him. The comment by the poet Guillaume Crétin, in the lament he wrote on Ockeghem's death in 1497, "it was a great shame that a composer of his talents should die before 100 years old", is also often taken as evidence for the earlier birthdate for Ockeghem.

In 1993, documents dating from 1607 were found stating that "Jan Hocquegam" was a native of Saint-Ghislain in the County of Hainaut, which was confirmed by references in 16th century documents. This suggests that, though he first appears in records in Flanders, he was a native speaker of Picard. Previously, most biographies surmised that he was born in East Flanders, either in the town after which he was named (present-day Okegem, from which his ancestors must have come) or in the neighboring town of Dendermonde (French: Termonde), where the surname Ockeghem occurred in the 14th and 15th century. Occasionally, Bavay, now in the Nord department in France, was suggested as his birthplace as well.

Details of his early life are lacking. Like many composers in this period, he started his musical career as a chorister, although the exact location of his education is unknown: Mons, a town near Saint-Ghislain that had at least two churches with competent music schools, has been suggested. The first actual documented record of Ockeghem is from the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe cathedral in Antwerp, where he was employed in June 1443 as a "left-hand choir singer" ("left-handers" sang composed music, "right-handers" sang chant). He probably sang under the direction of Johannes Pullois, whose employment also dates from that year. This church was a distinguished establishment, and it was likely here that Ockeghem became familiar with the English compositional style, which influenced late 15th-century musical practice on the continent.

Between 1446 and 1448 Ockeghem served, along with singer and composer Jean Cousin, at the court of Charles I, Duke of Bourbon in Moulins, now in central France. During this service he became the first among the singing chaplains to appear in the court records. Around 1452 he moved to Paris where he served as maestro di cappella to the French court, as well as treasurer of the collegiate church of St Martin, at Tours. In addition to serving at the French court – both for Charles VII and Louis XI – he held posts at Notre Dame de Paris and at St Benoît. He is known to have traveled to Spain in 1470, as part of a diplomatic mission for the King, which was a complex affair attempting both to dissuade Spain from joining an alliance with England and Burgundy against France, and to arrange a marriage between Isabella I of Castile and Charles, Duke of Guyenne (the brother of king Louis XI). After the death of Louis XI (1483), not much is known for certain about Ockeghem's whereabouts, though it is known that he went to Bruges and Tours, and he probably died in the latter town since he left a will there. An indication of the renown in which Ockeghem was held is the number of laments written on his death in 1497; among the most famous of the musical settings of these many poems is Nymphes des bois by Josquin des Prez.

Ockeghem probably studied with Gilles Binchois, and at least was closely associated with him at the Burgundian court. Since Antoine Busnoys wrote a motet in honor of Ockeghem sometime before 1467, it is probable that those two were acquainted as well; and writers of the time often link Dufay, Busnoys and Ockeghem. Although Ockeghem's musical style differs considerably from that of the older generation, it is probable that he acquired his basic technique from them, and as such can be seen as a direct link from the Burgundian style to the next generation of Netherlanders, such as Obrecht and Josquin.

Ockeghem was not a prolific composer, given the length of his career and extent of his reputation, and some of his work was lost. Many works formerly attributed to Ockeghem are now presumed to be by other composers; Ockeghem's total output of reliably attributed compositions, as with many of the most famous composers of the time (such as Josquin), has shrunk with time. Surviving, reliably-attributed, works include some 14 masses (including a Requiem mass), an isolated Credo (Credo sine nomine), 5 motets, a motet-chanson (a deploration on the death of Binchois), and 21 chansons. Thirteen of Ockeghem's masses are preserved in the Chigi codex, a Flemish manuscript dating to around 1500. His Missa pro Defunctis is the earliest surviving polyphonic Requiem mass (a setting by Dufay, possibly earlier, has been lost). Some of his works, alongside compositions by his contemporaries, are included in Petrucci's Harmonice musices odhecaton (1501), the first collection of music to be published using moveable type.

Dating Ockeghem's works is controversial, as there are almost no external references allowing precise dating, excepting of course the death of Binchois (1460) for which Ockeghem composed a motet-chanson. The Missa Caput is almost certainly an early work, since it follows on an anonymous English mass of the same title dated to the 1440s, and his late masses may include the Missa Ma maistresse and Missa Fors seulement, in view of both his innovative treatment of the cantus firmus, and his tendency to write more and more homogeneous textures later in his life.

Ockeghem used the cantus firmus technique in about half of his masses; the earliest of these masses use head-motifs at the start of the individual movements, a practice which was common around 1440 but which was archaic after around mid-century. Two of his masses, Missa Ma maistresse and Missa Fors seulement, are based on chansons he wrote himself, and use more than one voice of the chanson, foreshadowing the parody mass techniques of the 16th century. In his remaining masses, including the Missa Mi-mi, Missa cuiusvis toni, and Missa prolationum, no borrowed material has been found, and the works seem to have been freely composed.

Ockeghem would sometimes place borrowed material in the lowest voice, such as in the Missa Caput, one of three masses written in the mid-15th century based on that fragment of chant from the English Sarum Rite. Other characteristics of Ockeghem's compositional technique include his liking for varying the rhythmic shape of voices, so as to maintain their independence.

A strong influence on Josquin des Prez and the subsequent generation of Netherlanders, Ockeghem was famous throughout Europe for his expressive music, although he was equally renowned for his technical prowess. Two of the most famous contrapuntal achievements of the 15th century include the astonishing Missa prolationum, which consists entirely of mensuration canons, and the Missa cuiusvis toni, designed to be performed in any of the different modes, but even these technique-oriented masterpieces demonstrate his insightful use of vocal ranges and uniquely expressive tonal language. Being a renowned bass singer himself, his use of wide-ranging and rhythmically active bass lines sets him apart from many of the other composers in the Netherlandish Schools.

Ockeghem died in Tours, France. To commemorate his death, Josquin des Prez composed the motet La déploration de la mort de Johannes Ockeghem, a setting of the poem Nymphes des bois by Jean Molinet. An unusually large number of laments appeared after the death of this great composer. Some of the authors of these poems included Molinet and Desiderius Erasmus; Johannes Lupi provided another musical setting.


Ο Γιοχάνες Όκεγχεμ ήταν Φλαμανδός συνθέτης της Αναγέννησης. Μαζί με τον Γκιγιώμ Ντυφαί και τον Ζοσκέν ντε Πρε θεωρείται ένας από τους σημαντικότερους συνθέτες της λεγόμενης Γαλλο-Φλαμανδικής Σχολής. Το μεγαλύτερο μέρος του έργου του απαρτίζεται από λειτουργίες, μοτέτα και σανσόν, με ξεχωριστή θέση ανάμεσά τους ένα Ρέκβιεμ και το αντίφωνο Intemerata Dei Mater, ενώ ο ίδιος υπήρξε και σπουδαίος τραγουδιστής, χοράρχης και μουσικοδιδάσκαλος.

Ο Όκεγχεμ γεννήθηκε κατά πάσα πιθανότητα στην πόλη Σαιν-Γκισλαίν, στο σημερινό Βέλγιο, με την ημερομηνία γέννησής του να τοποθετείται μεταξύ των ετών 1410 και 1430, χωρίς ωστόσο καμία να θεωρείται αδιαμφισβήτητη. Πιθανόν στα νιάτα του να γνώρισε τον συνθέτη Ζιλ Μπενσουά στην περιοχή του Αινώ, κάτι που προκύπτει από την αναφορά στο όνομά του, σε έναν επικήδειο που έγραψε ο Όκεγχεμ το 1460. Στο έργο αυτό είναι προφανής όχι μόνο η αναφορά στο ύφος του Βουργουνδού συνθέτη, αλλά και κάποιες πληροφορίες βιογραφικού χαρακτήρα.

Για τα πρώτα του χρόνια ελάχιστα είναι γνωστά. Όπως και οι περισσότεροι μουσικοί της εποχής καταγράφεται ως παιδί της χορωδίας στην πόλη Μονς και αργότερα στον Καθεδρικό της Αμβέρσας. Προφανώς, σ' αυτό το πλαίσιο έμαθε να τραγουδά και να γράφει μουσική, έχοντας ως πρότυπα την αγγλική φωνητική μουσική της περιόδου, αλλά και την αντίστοιχη μουσική της Γαλλίας.

Στα 1446-1448 εμφανίζεται στην υπηρεσία του Καρόλου Α', Δούκα των Βουρβώνων, στην πόλη Μουλέν της κεντρικής Γαλλίας. Λίγα χρόνια αργότερα, το 1452, βρίσκεται στο Παρίσι, όπου και αναλαμβάνει διευθυντής χορωδίας της Γαλλικής Αυλής· επιπλέον, εργάστηκε και στη Νοτρ Νταμ (Παναγία των Παρισίων), ενώ διετέλεσε ταμίας του Αββαείου του Αγίου Μαρτίνου της πόλης Τουρ. Μέρος των μη-μουσικών του δραστηριοτήτων ήταν και ένα ταξίδι στην Ισπανία, ως μέλος διπλωματικής αποστολής, που στόχο είχε την αποτροπή της συμμαχίας των Ισπανών με τους Άγγλους ενάντια στη Γαλλία, αλλά και τη μεσιτεία των γάμων της Ισαβέλλας Α' της Καστίλλης και του Καρόλου, Δούκα του Γκυέν (αδελφού του Λουδοβίκου ΙΑ').

Μετά το θάνατο του Λουδοβίκου, ο Όκεγχεμ είναι εν πολλοίς άγνωστο πού πήγε και τι έκανε, ωστόσο είναι γνωστό ότι βρέθηκε στην πόλη Μπρυζ, καθώς και στην Τουρ, όπου και πέθανε. Δείκτης της δημοτικότητάς του αποτελούν οι πάμπολλοι επικήδειοι θρήνοι που γράφτηκαν, με πιο ξεχωριστό ίσως αυτόν του Ζοσκέν ντε Πρε, με τίτλο Nymphes des bois (Νύμφες του δάσους).

Δεδομένου του χρόνου ζωής του και της έκτασης της φήμης του, ο Όκεγκεμ εντούτοις δεν θεωρείται ιδιαίτερα παραγωγικός ως συνθέτης. Κάποια από τα έργα του χάθηκαν, ενώ άλλα τού είχαν αποδοθεί λανθασμένα και έχουν πλέον αποκατασταθεί· εν γένει παρατηρείται μια σμίκρυνση στο πραγματικό του έργο, κάτι που όμως συμβαίνει και με άλλους συνθέτες της γενιάς του. Από τα έργα του που έχουν διασωθεί και είναι εξακριβωμένο ότι έχουν γραφτεί από εκείνον, περιλαμβάνονται γύρω στις 14 Λειτουργίες (μεταξύ αυτών και το Ρέκβιεμ), πέντε μοτέτα, 21 σανσόν, καθώς και άλλα αποσπάσματα έργων· τα περισσότερα από αυτά αποτελούν μέρος ευρύτερων συλλογών μουσικών έργων, όπως ο φλαμανδικός Κώδικας Chigi του 1500, και η ανθολογία με τίτλο Harmonice Musices Odhecaton (1501) του Ιταλού τυπογράφου Οτταβιάνο Πετρούτσι.

Στις μισές περίπου από τις Λειτουργίες του, ο Όκεγχεμ ενσωματώνει δεδομένες μελωδίες της εποχής από ύμνους, ψαλμούς και λαϊκούς σκοπούς, το λεγόμενο cantus firmus. Η τεχνική αυτή ήταν αρκετά δημοφιλής ανάμεσα στους συνθέτες της εποχής, προαναγγέλοντας τις μετέπειτα μιμητικού ύφους τεχνοτροπίες που βρίσκουμε στη λειτουργία-παρωδία και στη λειτουργία-παράφραση· και οι τρεις τύποι βασίζουν τη δομή τους στη μίμηση μιας συγκεκριμένης μελωδίας ή αποσπάσματος από άλλο έργο, παραφράζοντας σε μικρό ή μεγαλύτερο βαθμό το αρχικό υλικό (Σ.Σ. ουδεμία σχέση με τη σύγχρονη έννοια της παρωδίας).

Με την αντιστικτική τους υφή, και επηρεασμένος από τον Ζοσκέν ντε Πρε και τη φλαμανδική αισθητική, ο Όκεγχεμ έγινε γνωστός σε ολόκληρη τη δυτική Ευρώπη, τόσο για το εκφραστικό όσο και για το τεχνικά άρτιο ύφος του. Οι τεχνικές του δυνατότητες μάλιστα βρήκαν την απόλυτη έκφανσή τους στην περίφημη Missa prolationum, η οποία αποτελείται εξ ολοκλήρου από μετρικούς κανόνες (αντιστικτική δομή κατά την οποία οι μιμήσεις τελούνται σε διαφορετικές ταχύτητες κατ' αναλογία της αρχικής), αλλά και στη Missa cuiusvis toni, η οποία σχεδιάστηκε έτσι ώστε να εκτελείται σε καθέναν από τους οκτώ μουσικούς τρόπους. Καθώς ο ίδιος υπήρξε περίφημος βαθύφωνος, είναι αναμενόμενος στα έργα του ο ιδιαίτερος χειρισμός των χαμηλών φωνών, όπου παρατηρείται ευρεία τονική έκταση, αλλά και ασυνήθιστα έντονο ρυθμικό στοιχείο, χαρακτηριστικά που τον ξεχωρίζουν από τους υπόλοιπους συνθέτες της Γαλλο-Φλαμανδικής Σχολής.

Ο Όκεγχεμ πέθανε στην πόλη Τουρ της Γαλλίας· προς τιμήν του, ο Ζοσκέν ντε Πρε συνέθεσε το μοτέτο La déploration de la mort de Johannes Ockeghem (Θρήνος για το θάνατο του Γιοχάνες Όκεγχεμ), μελοποιώντας το ποίημα Nymphes des bois του Ζαν Μολινέ. Αρκετοί επικήδειοι ακόμη γράφτηκαν για να τιμήσουν τον μεγάλο συνθέτη, μεταξύ αυτών και ένα ποίημα του Ολλανδού αναγεννησιακού ανθρωπιστή, καθολικού ιερέα, δασκάλου και θεολόγου Έρασμου.


Chartreuse at Mauerbach, Church

See also

Christmas with the Faces of Classical Music

Carlo Gesualdo: Sacrarum Cantionum Liber Primus a 5 voci – Oxford Camerata, Jeremy Summerly (Audio video)

Sacred Salterio: Lamentations of the Holy Week – Miriam Feuersinger, Il Dolce Conforto, Franziska Fleischanderl, Jonathan Pesek, Deniel Perer (Audio video)

Nicolas Gombert: Motets, Vol. II – Beauty Farm (Download 44.1kHz/16bit)

Nicolas Gombert: Motets, Vol. I – Beauty Farm (Download 44.1kHz/16bit)

In the Midst of Life. Music from the Baldwin Partbooks I – Contrapunctus, Owen Rees (Audio video)

Antoine Busnoys: For the love of Jaqueline (Medieval love songs) – Sylvia Rhyne, Eric Redlinger (Audio video)

Η Κρατική Ορχήστρα Αθηνών θεωρεί ότι «οι Άγγλοι δεν φημίζονται για τη μουσική τους»

Τελευταία νύχτα των BBC Proms 2015, στο Royal Albert Hall του Λονδίνου.
Φωτογραφία του Paul Sanders

Αναζητώντας πληροφοριακό υλικό στα ελληνικά, για το Κοντσέρτο για βιολοντσέλο του Έντουαρντ Έλγκαρ, διαβάσαμε στην επίσημη ιστοσελίδα της Κρατικής Ορχήστρας Αθηνών, σε δημοσίευση του 2016: «Μπορεί οι Άγγλοι να μην φημίζονται γενικά για τη μουσική τους, αλλά...» Σκεφτήκαμε ότι δεν ήταν δυνατόν, ότι μάλλον δεν διαβάσαμε σωστά. Ξαναδιαβάσαμε ολόκληρη την παράγραφο, διαπιστώνοντας δυστυχώς ότι είχαμε διαβάσει πολύ σωστά.

Εάν την άποψη ότι «οι Άγγλοι δεν φημίζονται γενικά για τη μουσική τους» την είχε εκφράσει ο οποιοσδήποτε, δεν θα είχε καμία απολύτως σημασία. Όταν, όμως, η άποψη αυτή εκφράζεται από την επίσημη ιστοσελίδα της Κρατικής Ορχήστρας Αθηνών, το πράγμα γίνεται πολύ σοβαρό.

Αποδεικνύεται ότι οι «δημόσιοι υπάλληλοι», από τον πρώτο μέχρι τον τελευταίο, οι οποίοι στελεχώνουν την Κρατική Ορχήστρα Αθηνών, δεν είναι μόνο εντελώς αστοιχείωτοι και γελοίοι, αλλά – δίχως υπερβολή, καθώς μία κρατική ορχήστρα οφείλει να επιτελεί πρωτίστως παιδαγωγικό έργο – είναι άκρως επικίνδυνοι.

(Διαβάστε την επίμαχη δημοσίευση στην ιστοσελίδα της Κρατικής Ορχήστρας Αθηνών.)

Faces of Classical Music / Πρόσωπα της Κλασικής Μουσικής

Friday, February 24, 2017

Daniel Kharitonov plays Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No.9 in E flat major "Jeunehomme" – Moscow Soloists Chamber Orchestra, Ayrton Desimpelaere – XV International Tchaikovsky Competition, 2015, Piano / Round 2, Second stage

The International Tchaikovsky Competition, first held more than 50 years ago, is not only a valuable asset of Russian musical culture but is also one of the major events in the international music community. The International Tchaikovsky Competition is held once every four years

The first, in 1958, included two disciplines – piano and violin. Beginning with the second competition, in 1962, a cello category was added, and the vocal division was introduced during the third competition in 1966. In 1990, a fifth discipline was announced for the IX International Tchaikovsky Competition – a contest for violin makers which was held before the main competition.

The XV International Tchaikovsky Competition was held in Moscow and St Petersburg from June 15 to July 3, 2015, and was dedicated to the 175th anniversary of the great Russian composer.

In the competition participated more than 600 artists from 45 countries.

On the jury for piano was the distinguished pianists Dmitri Bashkirov, Boris Berezovsky, Michel Béroff, Peter Donohoe, Sergei Dorensky, Barry Douglas, Denis Matsuev, Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Alexander Toradze, Vladimir Feltsman, Klaus Hellwig, and the founder and director of the Verbier International Festival and Academy, Martin Engström.

Mozart's Concerto for piano and orchestra No.9, dates back to 1777, when Mozart was only 21. But it is certainly not because of Mozart's young age that the concerto inherited the nickname of "Jeunehomme". In fact, Jeunehomme was the surname of a young French pianist who visited Salzburg and for whom Mozart wrote his score.

The pianists competing at the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition must perform, during the second round of the Competition, one of the seven piano concertos written by Mozart and selected by the Competition.

Ο 15ος Διεθνής Διαγωνισμός Τσαϊκόφσκι, ο οποίος ήταν αφιερωμένος στην 175η επέτειο από τη γέννηση του μεγάλου Ρώσου συνθέτη, πραγματοποιήθηκε στη Μόσχα και στην Αγία Πετρούπολη από τις 15 Ιουνίου έως τις 3 Ιουλίου 2015.

Στο πλαίσιο του δεύτερου γύρου – στο δεύτερο από τα δύο στάδια – του διαγωνισμού στην κατηγορία του πιάνου, ο Ρώσος πιανίστας Daniel Kharitonov (γενν. 1998), ο οποίος μοιράστηκε την τρίτη θέση με τον επίσης Ρώσο Sergei Redkin, ερμήνευσε το Κοντσέρτο για πιάνο αρ. 9 σε Μι ύφεση μείζονα, K.271, του Βόλφγκανγκ Αμαντέους Μότσαρτ. Την Ορχήστρα Δωματίου Οι Σολίστ της Μόσχας διηύθυνε ο 27χρονος Βέλγος πιανίστας και αρχιμουσικός Ayrton Desimpelaere.

Η συναυλία έλαβε χώρα στη Μεγάλη Αίθουσα του Ωδείου της Μόσχας, στις 25 Ιουνίου 2015.

Ο Διεθνής Διαγωνισμός Τσαϊκόφσκι, ο οποίος πραγματοποιείται κάθε τέσσερα χρόνια, είναι ίσως ο σημαντικότερος διαγωνισμός στο χώρο της κλασικής μουσικής. Ο διαγωνισμός διοργανώθηκε για πρώτη φορά το 1958, περιλαμβάνοντας μόνο δύο κατηγορίες: του βιολιού και του πιάνου. Το 1962, στη δεύτερη διοργάνωση, προστέθηκε η κατηγορία του βιολοντσέλου, ενώ στην τρίτη διοργάνωση του διαγωνισμού, το 1966, προστέθηκε ακόμη η κατηγορία της φωνής.

Στον 15ο Διαγωνισμό, το 2015, συμμετείχαν περισσότεροι από εξακόσιοι καλλιτέχνες από 45 χώρες, οι οποίοι διαγωνίστηκαν και στις τέσσερεις κατηγορίες: πιάνο, βιολί, βιολοντσέλο και φωνή.

Την κριτική επιτροπή για την κατηγορία του πιάνου αποτελούσαν οι διακεκριμένοι πιανίστες Dmitri Bashkirov, Boris Berezovsky, Michel Béroff, Peter Donohoe, Sergei Dorensky, Barry Douglas, Denis Matsuev, Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Alexander Toradze, Vladimir Feltsman, Klaus Hellwig, καθώς επίσης και ο Martin Engström, ιδρυτής και διευθυντής του Διεθνούς Φεστιβάλ και της Ακαδημίας του Βερμπιέρ.

Το Κοντσέρτο για πιάνο αρ. 9 σε Μι ύφεση μείζονα, K.271, το επιλεγόμενο "Jeunehomme", του Βόλφγκανγκ Αμαντέους Μότσαρτ, γράφτηκε στο Σάλτσμπουργκ το 1777, όταν ο συνθέτης ήταν 21 ετών.

[At present, this video is unavailable]

XV International Tchaikovsky Competition, 2015, Piano / Round 2, Second stage

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

♪ Piano Concerto No.9 in E flat major "Jeunehomme", K.271 (1777)

i. Allegro
ii. Andantino
iii. Rondo. Presto

Daniel Kharitonov, piano – Third Prize*

Moscow Soloists Chamber Orchestra
Conductor: Ayrton Desimpelaere

Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, June 25, 2015

(HD 720p)

* Third place was shared by Daniel Kharitonov and Sergei Redkin

Born in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in the Russian Far East on December 22, 1998, Daniel Kharitonov emerged as one of the brightest talents of the 15th Tchaikovsky International Competition in 2015 at the age of 16, when his triumphant performance brought him the Third Prize.

Since his successful debut with The Mariinsky Orchestra under Valery Gergiev in 2013, Kharitonov became a regular with the orchestra and has already toured with them to China and Italy, and performed across Russia on the Moscow Easter Festival tours in 2014 and 2015. Other highlights in his native Russia include concerts with the State Academic Symphony Orchestra "Evgeny Svetlanov" and National Philharmonic of Russia, and recitals in halls such as the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory and Moscow International Performing Arts Center. He has participated at festivals such as Stars of the White Nights, Stars on Baikal and Crescendo, and regularly works with the Spivakov International Charity Foundation in Moscow.

Elsewhere, Kharitonov gave an electrifying performance at Carnegie Hall in 2013 as part of the Musical Olympus International Festival's gala concert and has also appeared at the Annecy Classic and International de Colmar festivals in France.

In early 2016 Kharitonov debuted with the China Philharmonic Orchestra, Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra and Orquestra Sinfônica Municipal de São Paulo to great critical acclaim and returned to Japan with the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra under Pavel Kogan. Later this season Kharitonov will appear in recital at the Duszniki International Chopin Piano Festival, Schubertíada a Vilabertran and as part of the Scherzo Jóvenes Intérpretes series. Upcoming concert performances include his much anticipated debut with the London Chamber Orchestra under Vladimir Ashkenazy and a tour of China with the National Philharmonic of Russia under Vladimir Spivakov.


More photos

See also

Daniel Kharitonov – All the posts

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Johann Sebastian Bach: 6 Suites for Cello Solo, BWV 1007-1012 – István Várdai (Audio video)

In May 2014 the Hungarian cellist István Várdai performed three Bach Suites at an unusual venue in New York: not the storied glamour of Carnegie Hall or the hip 92st St Y, but the Board of Officers Room in the recently renovated Armory on Park Avenue, a room no less redolent of distinguished history: to which he made his own distinguished contribution according to the New York Times, with a recital which concluded with a "superb" performance of the Sixth Suite.

Having just turned 30, Várdai has accumulated a string of impressive competition successes including first prize at the Geneva International competition and the prestigious ARD cello competition in Munich, as well as special prize at the Kronberg Academy's annual competition. Now, therefore, is as good a time as any to put down his thoughts on every cellist's Old Testament with his superb 1720 Montagnana instrument, which he also uses for the Sixth Suite, originally conceived by Bach for a five-stringed instrument such as the viola da spalla or violoncello piccolo.

"Mr. Várdai's trills", continued the New York Times review, "unfolded with elegant grace in his soulful rendition of the Allemande, and the Courante flowed with a joyous energy. Throughout the evening, he imbued the Suites with an essential pulse and rhythmic vigour that respected the dance origins of the movements".

Just last November he returned to the city, and the more conventionally prestigious venue of the Weill Recital Hall (part of the Carnegie Hall complex) for a recital of mostly Romantic repertoire with his fellow Hungarian, the pianist Zoltán Fejérvári. This time the reviews were no less enthusiastic: "István Várdai clearly can do many things so well", reported the critic of Seen and Heard, "and has a sensitivity, command and tonal lustre that are thoroughly distinctive. In some ways, he can seem to be a very tight, agile cellist yet he moves so compellingly into expressive and tonal breadth as well... It was all pretty special".

Bach's iconic Solo Suites form the pinnacle of the entire cello repertoire, the ultimate challenge and a Mount Everest every young and aspiring cellist has to climb, no matter how often that has already been done.

Young Hungarian cellist István Várdai is winner of the Geneva Competition, 3rd prize Tchaikovsky Competition 2007 and first prize winner of the prestigious ARD competition in 2014. He embarked on a successful international career, having played with Mikhael Pletnev, Adám Fischer, Zoltán Kocsis, and chamber music partner of Gidon Kremer, Mischa Maisky, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Andras Schiff, Klára Würtz and many others. He is a regular guest at international music festivals, notably Verbier.


Ακρογωνιαίος λίθος του ρεπερτορίου για βιολοντσέλο, οι Έξι Σουίτες, BWV 1007-1012, του Γιόχαν Σεμπάστιαν Μπαχ, ερμηνεύονται από τον τριαντάχρονο βραβευμένο Ούγγρο τσελίστα István Várdai. Η ηχογράφηση έγινε στις 29 και 30 Μαρτίου 2016, στο Παρεκκλήσι της Μονής των Καπουτσίνων, στο χωριό Velp του δήμου Grave της Ολλανδίας, και κυκλοφόρησε σε ψηφιακό δίσκο από την Brilliant Classics το 2017. (Ο István Várdai παίζει ένα βιολοντσέλο Montagnana του 1720.)

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

♪ 6 Suites for Cello Solo, BWV 1007-1012 (1717-1723)

Suite No.1 in G major, BWV 1007 [00:00]*
i. Prélude
ii. Allemande
iii. Courante
iv. Sarabande
v. Menuet I & II
vi. Gigue

Suite No.3 in C major, BWV 1009 [17:33]
i. Prelude
ii. Allemande
iii. Courante
iv. Sarabande
v. Bourrée I & II
vi. Gigue

Suite No.5 in C minor, BWV 1011 [39:33]
i. Prelude
ii. Allemande
iii. Courante
iv. Sarabande
v. Gavotte I & II
vi. Gigue

Suite No.2 in D minor, BWV 1008 [1:04:17]
i. Prelude
ii. Allemande
iii. Courante
iv. Sarabande
v. Menuet I & II
vi. Gigue

Suite No.4 in E flat major, BWV 1010 [1:23:12]
i. Prelude
ii. Allemande
iii. Courante
iv. Sarabande
v. Bourrée I & II
vi. Gigue

Suite No.6 in D major, BWV 1012 [1:47:49]
i. Prelude
ii. Allemande
iii. Courante
iv. Sarabande
v. Gavotte I & II
vi. Gigue

István Várdai, cello

Recording: 29-30 March 2016, Chapel of the Capucin Convent Velp, Grave, Netherlands

Brilliant Classics 2017

(HD 1080p – Audio video)

* Start time of each Suite

István Várdai

One of the happiest periods of Johann Sebastian Bach's life was the seven years (1717-1723) when he lived and worked in Cöthen. He subsequently moved to Leipzig with his wife and children, becoming cantor of the Thomaskirche and writing his now world-famous passions and hundreds of cantatas. This is our most familiar picture of Bach. Much of his chamber music, however, was composed in Cöthen, where Bach was chapelmaster of the court orchestra of Prince Leopold von Anhalt-Cöthen, a fanatical music lover of only 23 years of age. The prince spent no less than a quarter of his court finances on music and often joined his virtuoso musicians on the violin, viola da gamba or harpsichord. We would probably have forgotten the prince entirely had his court not been the setting for the composition of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, the Well-Tempered Clavier part 1, the Sonatas and Partitas for violin solo, the Suites for cello solo and other chamber music.

One of the virtuosos employed by Prince Leopold was the celebrated viol player and cellist Christian Ferdinand Abel. Bach is presumed to have written his six Suites for solo cello for him, since the composer makes extreme demands, if not requiring the impossible, of both cello and cellist. Many passages, particularly the many double stoppings, cannot be executed literally. In the Suites for solo cello, as in the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, Bach pursued hitherto untrodden paths. He achieved the very greatest effect with the very smallest means, turning an obstacle race into a display of grandeur. As an instrumentalist to the back-bone, Bach pushed forward the boundaries of performance practice by exploiting to the full the specific possibilities of the cello. These Suites, with their improvisational adventures, strict imitative excursions, rhythmic flair and for the time unequalled virtuosity, are in every sense the equal of Bach's keyboard works of the same period.

Furthermore, within his oeuvre they form a group of compositions in their own right, in which he succeeded, with all the means offered by the instrument but without the accompaniment of a basso continuo, in creating genuine polyphony and harmony. Bach's Suites present an absolute standard, a standard which had to be measured up to by composers including Reger, Hindemith, Ysaÿe, Kódaly, Bartók, Honegger and Ligeti when they composed for solo cello.

Unlike the works for solo violin, all six Cello Suites have a similar structure. They commence with a prelude, followed by an allemande, courante, two French dances ("galanteries") and a gigue. The First Suite in G major begins with a genuine prelude with "perpetual motion" in semiquavers, employing arpeggio and scale motifs. Bach builds the tension up until the very end, culminating in the widely spread final chord with a high g. The prelude is followed by an allemande, pacing forward regularly, and a courante, highly virtuosic despite its single voice. The small-scale sarabande is a fine example of classical structure, with two phrases of eight bars each. After two simple menuets, employing material reminiscent of the prelude, the Suite ends with a whirling gigue.

Darker and more dramatic is the Second Suite in D minor. The prelude and allemande offer more rhythmic variety than the corresponding movements in the First Suite. Wonderful chords and a dark timbre lend the sarabande great profundity. The menuets provide a strong contrast. The first is in D minor and has such robust chords that it is hardly a "galanterie". The galant second menuet is in the sunny key of D major. The same sturdy character permeates the concluding gigue.

In the opening of the magnificent prelude to the Third Suite in C major, a descending scale and broken chords are the broad brush strokes used to establish the key. The exciting semiquaver movement set in motion here culminates in a long pedal point, the bass note G which is repeated for no less than seven bars. The prelude is followed by a beautifully ornamented, noble allemande, followed by a fast pendant in the form of the courante, the French dance which runs along so agilely but surprises us with all sorts of risky melodic leaps. Slow once more is the dignified, striding sarabande with its wonderful double stoppings. Perhaps the most familiar movements are the two bourrées, originally French country dances, with their appealing and sweeping melodies. The Suite ends with an English jumping dance, the gigue, larded with virtuosic effects and awkward handfuls of notes.

The Fourth Suite commences with a most spectacular prelude: 48 bars of continuosly tumbling arpeggios are brought to an end only by a pause, followed by a long garland of semiquavers. More pensive is the prelude to the Fifth Suite in C minor. It is the only prelude of the six to comprise two contrasting halves, first a dark, improvisational section and then a fugal passage which constitutes a wonder of "single-part polyphony". In order to accomodate double stoppings and create a particularly dark colour, Bach requires the highest A string to be tuned down to G. The recalcitrant Sixth Suite in D major was written for an instrument with five strings, the viola pomposa. In size this instrument occupies a place between the cello and viola; above the customary high A string it has an E string. In the lengthy prelude the uninterrupted 12/8 movement maintains the tension from beginning to end. It is followed by the most richly ornamented and broadly sweeping allemande of the series of six. More streamlined and straightforward is the transparent and singlevoiced courante, after which the sarabande indulges once more in an ingenious chordal style. The customary two menuets between the sarabande and gigue are replaced here by gavottes.

Source: Clemens Romijn

Photo by Balázs Böröcz
István Várdai, the 30 year old Hungarian cellist was honoured with several prestigious international prizes: in 2008 he won the 63th Geneva International Music Competition. He took the third prize of the International Tchaikovsky Music Competition, Moscow, in 2007. In 2006 he was awarded with the special prize of the Emanuel Feuermann Cello Competition at the Kronberg Academy and received first prize at the 13th International Brahms Competition in Austria. He was winner of the David Popper International Music Competition three times (2000, 2003, 2004). In 2012 he received the prestigious Prix Montblanc awarded to the world's most promising young musician. In 2014 he won the prestigious ARD Cello Competition in Munich.

Since his debut concert in 1997 in The Hague, he has performed in New York, Washington, Vancouver, London, Paris, Prague, Vienna, Frankfurt, Munich, Geneva, Dublin, Moscow, St Petersburg, Florence, Tokyo, Beijing with great success. In 2010 he made his debut, among others, in Carnegie Hall and the Wiener Konzerthaus. Along his starting career, he played with world-famous musicians and orchestras: András Schiff, Yuri Bashmet, Zoltán Kocsis, Gidon Kremer, Tabea Zimmermann, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra, Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, Suisse Romande Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Geneva Chamber Orchestra, Irish Chamber Orchestra,, American Symphony Orchestra. He has been invited to Santander Festival, the Gergiev Festival in St Petersburg, the Casals Festival (Spain), Festival of Radio France (Montpellier), Bellerive Festival (Switzerland), Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, Verbier Festival, West Cork Chamber Music Festival, Schwetzingen Festival and the Budapest Spring Festival.

From 2004 István studied in the Class of Special Talents at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, from 2005 at the Music Academy of Vienna. Between 2010 and 2013 he continued his studies at Kronberg Academy in Germany From 2013 he is on the staff of the famous Academy. His first album containing pieces of Janáček, Prokofiev and the Elgar cello concerto was released in 2009 by Ysaÿe Records. In 2010 he recorded the cello concerto of Johann Baptist Vanhal. On his album released by the Hännsler label in 2013 he plays works by Mendelssohn, Martinů, Paganini, Beethoven and Popper. His album with both versions of Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations was released in 2014, his most recent album (Singing Cello – Hungaroton) in 2015. Mr. Várdai is, together with violinist Kristóf Baráti, artistic director of the Kaposfest International Chamber Music Festival in Hungary. He plays a Montagnana cello from 1720.

Istvan Vardai played Bach's Cello Suites at the Park Avenue Armory's Board
of Officers Room. Photo by Tina Fineberg

See also

Johann Sebastian Bach: Cello Suite No.4 in E flat major, BWV 1010 – Peter Schmidt

Johann Sebastian Bach: Cello Suite No.3 in C major, BWV 1009 – Peter Schmidt

Johann Sebastian Bach: Cello Suite No.2 in D minor, BWV 1008 – Peter Schmidt

Johann Sebastian Bach: Cello Suite No.1 in G major, BWV 1007 – Peter Schmidt

Sunday, February 19, 2017

In the Midst of Life. Music from the Baldwin Partbooks I – Contrapunctus, Owen Rees (Audio video)

Early music needs another British vocal ensemble like a meerkat needs car insurance. It's a field that's already standing-room only, with long-established groups jostling with younger rivals for space. But Contrapunctus are special. Their first disc, "Libera nos: The Cry of the Oppressed" (Signum, 11/13), was seriously, startlingly good: the intimacy of The Cardinall's Musick, the rich, glowing tone of The Sixteen and the textual drama of Stile Antico. Their second disc proves that this was no one-off.

It's a shame that both the group's name and the rather earnest cover of "In the Midst of Life" (subtitled "Music from the Baldwin Partbooks, Vol. 1") may dissuade casual listeners from exploring the contents, because they would find much to delight here. This first selection from the rich Baldwin repertoire (Latin-texted English church music) broods on mortality, death and judgement. Works by Byrd, Tallis, Parsons and Sheppard feature alongside the odd wildcard – Dericke Gerarde's Sive vigilem is a quietly extraordinary discovery.

Contrapunctus play a long game with this often slow-paced, meditative repertoire. These are understated performances whose moment-to-moment drama is less striking than the long, aching arcs they achieve over five or six minutes – director Owen Rees shows his experience here, making a case for a conductor in a climate in which musical democracy is increasingly king.

Choral blend is mossy-soft and balance immaculate, perfect for the yearning loveliness of Taverner's Quemadmodum or Sheppard's Media vita. After two discs of penitence, however, I'd love to hear something a bit more rhythmic, more energetic in their next release. If Contrapunctus can do vivid attack as well as they do misty piety, they may find themselves setting the bar in this repertoire.

Alexandra Coghlan (

Υπό τη διεύθυνση του ειδικού στη μουσική του δέκατου έκτου και δέκατου έβδομου αιώνα, Owen Rees, το βρετανικό φωνητικό σύνολο παλαιάς μουσικής, Contrapunctus, ερμηνεύει μοτέτα από την πλούσια συλλογή έργων εκκλησιαστικής μουσικής της Αγγλικής Αναγέννησης, με λατινικά κείμενα, Baldwin Partbooks, των σπουδαίων συνθετών Ουίλιαμ Μπερντ, Ρόμπερτ Πάρσονς, Ουίλιαμ Μάντι, Τζον Τάβερνερ, Τόμας Τάλις, Ντέρικ Γκέραρντ και Τζον Σέπαρντ. Τα μοτέτα έχουν ως θέμα τους τη θνητότητα, την αγωνία του θανάτου και του αιώνιου μαρτυρίου ενόψει της Ημέρας της Κρίσεως, καθώς και τη λαχτάρα της ψυχής να συναντήσει το Θεό.

Η ηχογράφηση του άλμπουμ "In the Midst of Life. Music from the Baldwin Partbooks I" έγινε στην Εκκλησία του Αγίου Μιχαήλ και Όλων των Αγγέλων, στην Οξφόρδη, τον Ιανουάριο του 2014 και κυκλοφόρησε από την Signum Classics το 2015, αποσπώντας εξαιρετικές κριτικές.

In the Midst of Life
Music from the Baldwin Partbooks I

1. William Byrd (1539/40-1623): Circumdederunt me
2. Robert Parsons (c.1535-1572): Libera me, Domine
3. William Byrd: Audivi vocem de caelo
4. William Mundy (c.1529-1591): Sive vigilem
5. Robert Parsons: Peccantem me quotidie
6. John Taverner (c.1490-1545): Quemadmodum a 6
7. Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585): Nunc dimittis a 5
8. Dericke Gerarde (1485-1580): Sive vigilem
9. Robert Parsons: Credo quod redemptor
10. John Sheppard (c.1515-1558): Media vita

Conductor: Owen Rees

Recorded at Church of St Michael and All Angels, Oxford, United Kingdom, in January 2014.

Signum Classics 2015

Cover image: The tomb of Mary Queen of Scots, south isle of the Lady Chapel, c.1612-1613 (marble), Cure, Cornelius (d.1605) and Cure, William (d.1632). Westminster Abbey, London, UK. Photo by James Brittain.

(HD 1080p – Audio video)

The repertory of Latin sacred works by Tudor composers is one of the musical glories of the Renaissance, but the survival of much of that repertory has hung by a strikingly slender thread, namely a few manuscript collections of polyphony compiled late in the sixteenth century, at a time when a significant portion of the music concerned had lost its original liturgical and devotional contexts as a result of the Reformation in England. This recording presents music from the greatest of these Elizabethan manuscript compilations, the Baldwin partbooks, and is the first of a series of recordings by Contrapunctus which will present a broad selection of music from the collection. This huge anthology – containing almost 170 works – was copied by John Baldwin between about 1575 and 1581, during the period that he held a tenor lay clerkship in the choir of St George's Chapel, Windsor. Baldwin would later go on to join the most prestigious choir in Tudor England, the Chapel Royal, and as a Gentleman of that chapel he sang at great state occasions such as the funeral of Queen Elizabeth I and the coronation of King James I. He died in 1615.

The Baldwin partbooks present a wonderfully rich survey of Latin-texted music composed in England over several decades, and the range of religious themes encompassed by the contents is extremely wide. Baldwin did not organise his collection by composer or by genre. Our approach in this series of recordings is twofold: first, to reflect in our selection of music for each disc the panoply of styles in the partbooks, ranging across the half century or so of musical history which is represented there; second, so that each disc is coherent, we focus in turn on several of the prominent religious themes represented in Baldwin's anthology. On this first disc we perform works concerned with mortality: the fear of death and eternal torment, anticipation of the Day of Judgement, and the soul's longing to meet God.

The Baldwin partbooks are particularly valuable because they preserve numerous pieces which survive in no other source, and also because the repertory covers such a long period, extending back well before the Reformation in England to the music of John Taverner (d.1545). Taverner – the foremost English composer active near the end of Henry VIII's reign – is abundantly represented in the partbooks. Without these partbooks we would have lost a major portion of the work of John Sheppard (who was active in the 1540s and 1550s), including his epic Media vita which is presented on this disc. Baldwin's collection also provides us with numerous pieces by a younger generation of musicians composing during the middle decades of the century and well into Elizabeth's reign, such as Robert Parsons and William Mundy. However, by far the most famous composers represented are Thomas Tallis (whose extraordinarily long career stretched from the middle of Henry VIII's reign to the 1580s) and Tallis's pupil William Byrd. The partbooks include a great many motets by Byrd, and a copy of Tallis's and Byrd's joint printed collection of motets, Cantiones sacrae (1575), is bound into the end of the manuscripts. We are thus extraordinarily fortunate that Baldwin's anthology survived (it is preserved today in the library of Christ Church, Oxford), although sadly one of the six partbooks which made up the set – the Tenor book – has been lost for some time. Since many of the pieces in the collection are known only from this source, their Tenor parts have to be reconstructed editorially, and this applies to four of the ten works on this recording: Peccantem me quotidie by Parsons, Gerarde's Sive vigilem, Tallis's setting of the Nunc dimittis, and Media vita by Sheppard. The task of reconstruction is made much easier when – as in most of Media vita – the Tenor carries the chant associated with the relevant text as a long-note cantus firmus, so that the modern editor can simply rebuild the Tenor part using that chant melody, and be confident that the music has thus been faithfully restored.

Awareness of mortality was a constant in Tudor society, and the townscape and soundscape presented ubiquitous reminders of death. These included (to cite just a few) the tolling of funeral bells, public executions, and processions taking the body of the deceased from their house through the streets to the church for burial. In the period before the Reformation the fear of purgatory had led to a great proliferation in Requiem rites and the music associated with them. The texts of several of the works on this recording – all three of the items by Robert Parsons and one of those by William Byrd – are from the Catholic liturgies for the dead. In setting Audivi vocem de caelo, an antiphon for Vespers of the Dead, Byrd marks dramatically the point at which the "voice from heaven" speaks the words "Blessed are the dead", introducing these words with a startling change of harmony, and turning to chordal writing but with the topmost voice anticipating the others: his use of this specific device recalls occurrences of it in the Lamentations of Tallis and Robert Whyte and in motets by these two composers setting texts of mourning or penitence. It is possible that Byrd's Audivi vocem, with its impassioned setting of "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord", was written to commemorate one of the Catholic martyrs executed in the early 1580s, at around the time that Baldwin was compiling his partbooks. Such use of music in support of the Catholic cause was common in Byrd's output: although the composer served as Gentleman and Organist of Elizabeth's Chapel Royal, and was clearly one of the most valued musicians in her household, he remained loyal to the Catholic faith, and maintained close associations with Catholic members of the nobility and with Jesuits working in England. More than any English composer of the period, Byrd was able to mould imitative polyphonic textures to project the sense of a text with rhetorical power: in his motet Circumdederunt me the prayer for release ("libera animam meam") when surrounded by the fear of death and damnation which concludes the piece provides a wonderful example of such music "framed to the life of the words", as Byrd himself put it.

The three works by Robert Parsons on the recording, Libera me Domine, Credo quod redemptor meus vivit, and Peccantem me quotidie, are all settings of responsories for the service of Matins of the Dead, and Libera me also occurs during the ceremony of Absolution after the Requiem Mass. Parsons was appointed a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1563, and died by drowning in the River Trent In January 1571/2. (William Byrd succeeded to his place in the Chapel Royal.) In Libera me Domine and Peccantem me quotidie Parsons incorporates the relevant plainchant melody, laid out as a cantus firmus in equal note-values, and assigned to the Tenor in Libera me Domine and to one of the Contratenor parts in Peccantem me quotidie. It is likely that Parsons wrote these works as liturgical items, before the relevant rites of the dead were swept away with the reestablishing of the English Book of Common Prayer in 1559: although we do not know when he was born, it seems probable that he was already active as a composer during the brief reign (1553-1558) of Elizabeth's sister, Mary I, a period when the official religion of the country returned to Catholicism. In his copy of Libera me Domine, made decades after the liturgical usefulness of this piece had disappeared in England, John Baldwin nevertheless indicated the original liturgical repetition of part of the text (from "quando caeli movendi sunt") after the "Dies irae" verse. Parsons likewise allowed for such a repetition in his setting of Peccantem me quotidie, but here the verse has to be supplied in plainsong, as is done on this recording. The repeated final section of polyphony includes the words "miserere mei Deus" ("Have mercy upon me, O God"), the opening of Psalm 50: like many other Continental and English composers, including Byrd, Parsons here refers to Josquin's famous "miserere" motif (with its simple but plaintive rise and fall of one note) used in his setting of Psalm 50, where the motif appears as an ostinato subject between every verse of the psalm. Parsons follows this sombre gesture with an impassioned musical outburst to highlight the final words of his text, "et salva me" ("and save me"). Parsons' Credo quod redemptor meus vivit, richly scored for six voices, is a freely-composed motet rather than a liturgical setting of a responsory: although the concluding section of text and music (from "et in carne mea") is once again repeated here, the simple ABB structure used here is one that was common in English motets and anthems of the period. In the texts of both Credo quod redemptor and Libera me Domine the believer contemplates the Day of Judgement. While in the first of these pieces the end of days is pictured with hope – "on the last day I shall arise out of the earth, and in my flesh I shall see God" – in Libera me Domine we are presented with a frightful vision of the "day of wrath" when God will come to judge the world through fire. Parsons' setting of the "Dies illa, dies irae" verse builds to a mighty climax – displaying the muscular leaping contours frequently used in English polyphony of this period – to highlight this dread-inspiring description of the end of the world.

The Day of Judgement is also the theme of the text Sive vigilem (a version of a famous passage attributed to St Jerome), in which the speaker seems constantly to hear, whether awake or asleep, the sound of the Last Trumpet and the angelic summons for the dead to arise and come to be judged. Baldwin copied two settings of this text into his partbooks, composed respectively by William Mundy and Dericke Gerarde. Mundy, who may have been of a similar age to Robert Parsons, served as a vicar choral at St Paul's Cathedral during the early years of Elizabeth's reign, and then joined the Chapel Royal in 1564 (soon after Parsons), remaining in royal service until his death in (probably) 1591. Gerarde, a Flemish composer working in England, was associated with two of the most important musical patrons of the Elizabethan period, Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, and his son-in-law Lord Lumley, and the composer's music is mainly preserved in manuscripts from their great collection which was held at Nonsuch Palace. The responses of Mundy and Gerarde to the dramatic nature of the Sive vigilem text are equally powerful, although Gerarde is much more expansive in his treatment of it. Gerarde highlights the sounding of the trumpet ("sonum tubae"), while Mundy makes the summons of the angel to the dead – "surgite mortui": "arise, ye dead" – a threefold climactic exhortation, each statement higher and more commanding.

The opening of Psalm 42, "Quemadmodum desiderat cervus", expresses the soul's yearning for its final meeting with God: "Just as the hart desires springs of water, so longs my soul for Thee, O God. My soul has thirsted for God, the living spring. When shall I come and appear before the face of God?" A six-voice work attributed to John Taverner survives in its various sources (one of which is the Baldwin partbooks) without text, but with the title or incipit Quemadmodum, and in 1925 H. B. Collins suggested that the opening two verses of the psalm could satisfactorily be fitted to Taverner's music, and that the piece should therefore be regarded as a vocal work rather than for instruments. In fact, although the piece seems very likely to be vocal in origin, there are passages in which it is far from obvious how best to fit the words to the music; this recording presents a fresh attempt to do so. The work is unusual among those attributed to Taverner, maintaining fully-scored, equal-voiced, and largely imitative texture throughout. The shaping of paragraphs is masterful, as for example in the rising sequential repetition of "ad te Deus" towards the end of the first part, and at "quando veniam" in the second.

The Baldwin partbooks are the only known source for a setting by Tallis of the Latin Nunc dimittis, which is paired there with a setting of the Magnificat. The Nunc dimittis is the "Canticle of Simeon" from Luke's Gospel: the aged Simeon, having seen his Saviour (the Christ-child), expresses his contentment to die in peace. The fact that Tallis sets the Latin text rather than the English version of the Book of Common Prayer raises the question of whether his setting was composed before the reintroduction of that Prayer Book in 1559 under Queen Elizabeth, or whether it reflects the appearance in 1560 of the Liber precum publicarum, a Latin version of the Book of Common Prayer. The piece follows the common practice – in settings of Latin canticles both on the Continent and in England before the Reformation – of providing polyphony for alternate verses only, leaving the others to be chanted (as on this recording) or possibly played instrumentally. Tallis's exuberant treatment of the text includes a particularly powerful threefold declamation of the phrase "et gloriam plebis tuae Israel" ("and for the glory of your people Israel").

The monumental work by Sheppard which concludes the present recording, Media vita, is a setting of an antiphon to the Nunc dimittis – beginning with the words "In the midst of life we are in death" – sung during the final part of the penitential season of Lent. The Nunc dimittis appears in chanted form in the midst of this vast polyphonic edifice. As is the case with so much of the liturgical polyphony by Sheppard and Tallis preserved in the Baldwin partbooks, Sheppard here builds his rich polyphonic textures and soaring lines around a slow-moving chant (in the Tenor part), but in Media vita the chant moves at half the pace that is common in such chant-based works by these composers, lending the piece its extraordinarily expansive character. The English delight in varied sonority is exemplified by the verses which follow the Nunc dimittis, the first two of which are for lower voices, while the last uses the characteristic English technique of gimell, dividing both the Treble and Mean voices into two, and supporting these just with the bassus line: this sound-world evokes – and surely evoked for John Baldwin – the musical splendours of the pre-Reformation church in England which his collection did so much to preserve.

Owen Rees, 2014

Coupling powerful interpretations with path-breaking scholarship, Contrapunctus presents music by the best known composers as well as unfamiliar masterpieces. The group's repertoire is drawn from England, the Low Countries, Spain, Portugal and Germany, particularly in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  The scholarly facet of the group's work – including the discovery of long-lost music and reconstructions of original performing contexts – allows audiences to experience the first performances of many works in modern times.  Since its foundation in 2010, the group has appeared in many of the world's most prominent music festivals – the Utrecht Early Music Festival, the AMUZ Festival in Antwerp, the Festival van Vlaanderen in Mechelen, the Eborae Musica Festival and Setúbal Festival in Portugal, the concert series at De Bijloke in Ghent, and in the Martin Randall Festival of Spanish Music (Seville Cathedral), and alongside the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Contrapunctus is Vocal Consort in Residence at the University of Oxford. The group's debut disc "Libera nos: The Cry of the Oppressed" was released on the Signum Label in 2013 and was shortlisted for the Gramophone Early Music Award 2014. Contrapunctus' next recording project centres on the Baldwin Tudor Partbooks. A series of discs on the Signum label will present music from these partbooks. The first album "In the Midst of Life" featuring motets on the theme of mortality, was released in February 2015 to great critical acclaim. It was shortlisted for the Gramophone Early Music Award 2015, named Album of the Week in The Sunday Times, The Week, and on BBC Radio 3 CD Review. It was Editor's Choice in Gramophone and Choral and Song Choice in BBC Music Magazine.

Owen Rees is both performer and scholar, his scholarship consistently informing his performances. Through his extensive work as a choral director, he has brought to the concert hall and recording studio substantial repertories of magnificent Renaissance and Baroque music, including many previously unknown or little-known works from Spain and Portugal. His interpretations of these repertories have been acclaimed as "rare examples of scholarship and musicianship combining to result in performances that are both impressive and immediately attractive to the listener", and he has been described as "one of the most energetic and persuasive voices" in this field.

He has conducted at festivals worldwide, and is increasingly busy as a leader of workshops on performance of Renaissance polyphony. He has broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4, and on Portuguese, Spanish, and Norwegian radio. He has released CD recordings on the Hyperion, Signum, and Avie labels to consistently high critical acclaim and his work has been shortlisted for the Gramophone Early Music Award.

Owen Rees began his academic and conducting career as Organ Scholar at St Catharine's College, Cambridge, studying with Peter le Huray and Iain Fenlon. After a period as College Lecturer in Music at St Peter's College and St Edmund Hall, Oxford, he joined the Music Department at the University of Surrey, where he was promoted to the post of Reader. In 1997 he returned to Oxford, where – in addition to his posts of Fellow in Music at The Queen's College and Director of Music of the Choir of The Queen's College – he is Senior Research Fellow at Somerville College and a Professor in the Faculty of Music. His numerous published studies include work on the Spanish composers Cristóbal de Morales and Francisco Guerrero and the English composer William Byrd.

Image from the Baldwin Partbooks (Mundy, Sive vigilem, Ms 979, p. 152)

See also

Christmas with the Faces of Classical Music

Carlo Gesualdo: Sacrarum Cantionum Liber Primus a 5 voci – Oxford Camerata, Jeremy Summerly (Audio video)

Sacred Salterio: Lamentations of the Holy Week – Miriam Feuersinger, Il Dolce Conforto, Franziska Fleischanderl, Jonathan Pesek, Deniel Perer (Audio video)

Nicolas Gombert: Motets, Vol. II – Beauty Farm (Download 44.1kHz/16bit)

Nicolas Gombert: Motets, Vol. I – Beauty Farm (Download 44.1kHz/16bit)

Johannes Ockeghem: Missa L'homme armé, Missa quinti toni – Beauty Farm (Download 44.1kHz/16bit)

Antoine Busnoys: For the love of Jaqueline (Medieval love songs) – Sylvia Rhyne, Eric Redlinger (Audio video)