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A Rose Magnificat
Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929-1988)
Of a rose is all my song [5:55]
Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585)
Videte miraculum
[8:50]
Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930)
As dew in Aprylle [1:41]
Robert WHITE (c.1538-1574)
Magnificat
[11:57]
James MacMILLAN (b.1959)
Ave Maris Stella
[4:36]
John SHEPPARD (c.1515-1558)
Ave Maris Stella
[5:03]
Owain PARK (b.1993) Ave Maris Stella [4:40]
Robert WYLKYNSON (c.1450-1515)
alve Regina
[16:16]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
Salve Regina
[5:33]
Jonathan LANE (b.1958)
There is No Rose [2:51]
Matthew MARTIN (b.1976)
A Rose Magnificat
[10:23]
Gabrieli Consort/Paul McCreesh
rec. Romsey Abbey, UK, 2017
Texts and translations included.
Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from hyperion-records.co.uk. Also available on CD and in mp3, 16/44.1 and 24/192 downloads.
SIGNUM SIGCD536 [77:52]

There have been several similar recordings combining music by Tudor and Stuart composers and their modern successors, such as the Gabrieli Consort’s own A Song of Farewell (SIGCD281: Recording of the Month – review review), Incarnation (SIGCD346: Recording of the Month – review review) and The Road to Paradise (DG 4776605, now download only: Recording of the Month – review review). This new release narrows the field to music composed before the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558 or after 1915 and to settings of liturgical and extra-liturgical texts in honour of the Virgin Mary, one of whose many titles in medieval literature was Rosa sine spina, ‘the Rose without a thorn’.

At the same time, the rose was a symbol of the unattainable female, as in the seminal work Le Roman de la Rose, partly translated by Chaucer, where the final penetration of the rose bud has obvious sexual significance. Indeed, it’s often only by the context that we know whether a medieval love poem has a religious or secular significance. The notes in the booklet stress the affect or emotion inherent in all the music.  The very first work in this programme, Kenneth Leighton’s Of a rose is all my song, reveals more than an element of this ambiguity – the anonymous C15 poet writes ‘In all the world I know of none / I so desire as that fair rose’ – and the persuasive performance from soprano Ruth Provost underlines the ambiguity.

Two settings of the Magnificat are offered, old and new. The Gabrieli Consort are equally at home in Robert White from the sixteenth century and Matthew Martin from the twenty-first. There are several distinguished recordings of the White1 but this is the first of the Martin, a complex work interspersing the Latin text with There is no rose of such virtue, a C15 poem also set immediately before it in the programme by another young(-ish) composer Jonathan Lane, a work here receiving its second very fine recording. (The earlier recording by Tenebrę/Nigel Short is on A very English Christmas, Signum SIGCD902 – review review DL News 2015/10)2.

The youngest of all these composers, Owain Park, contributes a setting of the Marian hymn Ave Maris Stella. It’s heartening to see someone so young (b.1993) in such a recent work (2015) continuing the twentieth-century tradition exemplified in so much of Peter Warlock’s music, including As dew in Aprylle, included here, of music so clearly of its own time and equally clearly influenced by medieval and renaissance predecessors.3

I have to admit that both Tudor polyphony and several of the more recent composers whose music is contained here form a regular part of my listening enjoyment, but I imagine that this and the Consort’s earlier recordings will cast their nets wider than the limited clientele who share my tastes. The familiar and the less familiar works all receive very fine performances, as good as any that I recall in the case of the better-known items, and the recording, especially as heard in 24-bit format, is excellent.

The notes take the form of an interview, a practice which I usually find somewhat irksome, but, in this case, it is at least informative, with Paul McCreesh himself, Matthew Martin – composer of the final work which gives its name to the whole album – and Oxford music guru Jeremy Summerly in play. Interestingly, the discussion raises the English-ness of Martin's music, which the composer himself had not considered.

Just be warned that if you don’t know the earlier recordings mentioned above, you may well be tempted to go for them. Those who own one or more of them will know what to expect, and they will not be disappointed. I seriously considered going for a full house by making this a Recording of the Month like the others; I may yet bear it in mind for a Recording of the Year.

1 including Magnificat/Philip Cave (Linn CKD447, The Tudors at Prayer review DL News 2014/7), The Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips (most economically on 2-for-1 Gimell CDGIM210, with other music by White and music by John Sheppard – Bargain of the Month: review) and Stile Antico (Puer natus est, Harmonia Mundi HMU807517 – Recording of the Month: review DL Roundup December 2010).

2 There is now also a 24/96 download from Hyperion.

3 The doyen of this was Vaughan Williams: try the recent Signum recording of his g minor Mass and other music, much of it timeless in quality, from St John’s, Cambridge (Signum SIGCD541).

Brian Wilson

 




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