One of the most grown-up review sites around


Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


Shostakovich 4, 11 Nelsons
Transparent Granite!


Nothing but Praise


BrucKner 4 Nelsons
the finest of recent years.

superb BD-A sound

This is a wonderful set


Telemann continues to amaze


A superb disc

Performances to cherish

An extraordinary disc.

rush out and buy this

I favour above all the others

Frank Martin - Exemplary accounts

Asrael Symphony
A major addition


Another Bacewicz winner


match any I’ve heard


An outstanding centenary collection


personable, tuneful, approachable


a very fine Brahms symphony cycle.


music that will be new to most people


telling, tough, thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded


hitherto unrecorded Latvian music

 


Support us financially by purchasing this from

William MUNDY (c.1529-1591)
Sacred Choral Music 
Beatus et sanctus [2:07]
Maria virgo sanctissima * [14:58]
Alleluia. Per te Dei genitrix I* [2:37]
Sive vigilem [2:39]
Alleluia. Per te Dei genitrix II* [3:15]
Vox patris cślestis [17:21]
Adolescentulus sum ego [4:57]
John SHEPPARD (1515-1558), William BYRD (1539/40-1623), William MUNDY
In exitu Israel [17:17]
* premiere recordings
Choir of St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh/Duncan Ferguson
rec. 2016/17, St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh
Texts and translations included.
DELPHIAN DCD34204 [65:15]

William Mundy is not nowadays considered one of the big names of English Renaissance church music, such as Taverner, Tallis or Byrd, but he was highly esteemed in his own time. He lived through the most tumultuous period in English religious history, starting with the change from the Latin to the English rite under Edward VI, going on to the restoration of the Latin rite under Mary and the return to the English rite under Elizabeth I. The changes were not simply those of language but of musical style as well: the florid writing of early Tudor composers, with the frequent use of melismas (several notes to a syllable) was disapproved of by Protestants, who wanted their English words to be clearly audible to the congregations, and so preferred more straightforward settings with one note to syllable. Mundy complied with these requirements but one has the feeling that he was happiest with the style in which he had been brought up, which is represented to some extent in all the works here, with, Latin words and, mostly, the more elaborate musical idiom.

We begin with Beatus et sanctus, setting Revelation 20:6 in a relatively straightforward idiom without melismas. This is easy to follow and a good introduction to his music. We then have Maria virgo sanctissima, a hymn in praise of the Virgin Mary, a characteristically Catholic as opposed to Protestant production by an unknown writer. This had been considered unperformable, as the tenor part is lacking in the set of part-books which contains it. However, scholars are often now able to supply such missing parts, and here we have it completed by Magnus Williamson. This is the first recording of this completion. It is a long work and full of variety, a worthy companion to Vox patris cślestis, Mundy’s best-known work and also on this disc.

Next are two settings of an Alleluia, which followed the Gradual which was sung between the epistle and gospel readings at Mass. Here it is Per te Dei genitrix for the Eastertide Lady Mass. These are alternatim settings, i.e. ones which alternate polyphonic verses with plainsong ones. The contrast between with the wonderfully creamy and rich polyphony with the plainer but still beautiful plainsong is part of the aesthetic effect of these settings. Again these are premiere recordings. The Advent motet Sive vigilem again shows Mundy moving between styles with both homophonic writing, in which the voices move together, as well as polyphony.

The text for Vox patris cślestis has been argued by John Milsom to have been written by William Forrest (fl. 1530–81), who was both a priest and a musician. He probably wrote it for Mary Tudor following her proclamation as Queen of England in July 1553. The text treats of the Coronation of the Virgin Mary, again a very Catholic idea, rejected by Protestants but popular with those who had not been persuaded by the new version of the faith. This begins with two voices but expands to a wonderfully rich and elaborate work, one of the last and most splendid of the votive antiphons before the simplifications required by Reform.

Adulescentulus sum ego sets a passage from the long Psalm 118 in the Vulgate numbering (119 in the Prayer Book). This was a popular source for psalm settings at the time, with examples also from White and Parsons. This moves in the direction of the later, simpler idiom but is nevertheless quite rich in texture, and of course in its continued use of Latin.

In exitu Israel, a setting of Psalm 113 in the Vulgate numbering (114 and 115 in the Prayer Book) is, unusually, a collaborative work in which Mundy worked with his older contemporary Sheppard and his younger contemporary Byrd. No explanation is given for the collaboration but I suspect that the piece was needed in a hurry, again to celebrate the accession of Queen Mary. Again this is an alternatim setting; one is not aware of the three different hands involved – or four, including the plainsong – and the work comes over as an integrated whole.

The Choir of St Mary’s Cathedral under the direction of Duncan Ferguson has been receiving glowing reviews for their previous recordings and this one deserves no less. This is a choir with both male and female choristers taking the treble line and their security, confidence and tonal lustre is a great pleasure, particularly in the plainsong passages. The fuller textures are no less admirably done and the whole disc gives great pleasure. Add to that a fine recording in a warm but not over-resonant acoustic, excellent notes by Ferguson himself (in English only) and Latin texts with (modern) English translations.

This appears to be only the second disc devoted entirely to Mundy to have been issued, though some of his pieces, notably Vox patris cślestis, appear in a number of mixed programmes. Its predecessor was recorded by The Sixteen, an adult choir with women on the top line, under Harry Christophers in 1988 and is still available on the Hyperion Helios label (CDH55086). This contains both Latin and English works and has a few overlaps with the present disc. It is an admirable disc; fans will want this new one as well and I recommend it to all who love this repertoire. I hope the choir have opportunities to perform these works liturgically.

Stephen Barber

Previous review: Brian Wilson


 




Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount


Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger