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1 	Hodie Nobis Coelorum Rex 	4:59
2 	Mater Christi Sanctissima 	7:21
3 	Magnificat a 4 - Nesciens Mater 	11:46
4 	Quemadmodum a 6		4:21
Missa Mater Christi Sanctissima 	(34:17)
5 	Gloria 	8:17
6 	Credo 	8:03
7 	Sanctus 	6:17
8 	Benedictus 	4:55
9 	Agnus Dei 	6:43

10 	In Nomine a 4	2:27

The Sixteen
Harry Christophers - conductor
Fretwork (Ensemble) (tracks: 4, 10)


Continuing their series of recordings of the works of John Taverner, The Sixteen now offer their impressive account of the composer's five-part Missa Mater Christi sanctissima, based on his votive anthem of the same name. It is a lively and vigorous work, beautifully crafted, and this performance amply matches the craftsmanship of the composer. The Sixteen are not the first choir to have recorded this work: four years ago the choir of Christ Church, Oxford, made a splendid recording with Stephen Darlington. Christ Church would appear to have held all the trump cards: in the first place, because Taverner wrote this Mass for this very choir, of which in the sixteenth century he was informator, the choir of what was then Wolsey's Cardinal College. The composition of the choir was the same then as now, with 16 boy trebles. Furthermore, the acoustic would have been identical. What more could a present-day, authenticityseeking conductor desire? To make their performance even more 'authentic', the choir had attempted to place it in its correct liturgical setting—in a mass celebrated according to the rite of Salisbury.

Possessing none of these 'inherited' advantages, Harry Christophers approaches the Mass from a different angle. He attempts no liturgical reconstruction, concentrating instead upon sheer musical quality. Three female sopranos replace the boy trebles. The music is all pitched up a tone, which has the effect of adding brilliance to every climax. He demonstrates the surprisingly good acoustic of St Jude-on-the-Hill in Hampstead—an acoustic of space and definition, ideal for the interweaving of the strands of early Tudor polyphony. His slightly slower tempo than that adopted by Darlington makes for greater clarity and a certain welcome gravitas. Without being told so, I might have been able to recognize, in the quality of the recording, the hand of Antony Howell: clarity and a sense of space are its hallmarks. In addition, there is an ease and elegance about this performance by The Sixteen, which shows itself in many ways, not least in the careful sculpting of the individual phrases, but also in attention to such details as the cadential triplets in the treble part at "de Deo VE-ro" (in the Credo—indicated by coloration and the proportional sign 3.2 in the part-book). -- Gramophone,


When James O’Donnell was in charge of Westminster Cathedral Choir, he produced a discography rich with the ebony and gold music of Renaissance Italy and Spain. Since 2000, when he moved to the other end of Victoria Street and took control of the choir of Westminster Abbey, his focus has shifted to the dense greenery of Tudor polyphony. In this recording of John Taverner’s Mater Christi sanctissima, Francis Steele’s reconstruction of the Missa Mater Christi sanctissima, and the Western Wynde Mass, the difference between the two choirs is more obvious than ever. Where the Cathedral choristers developed a bright, sophisticated, Continental timbre, the boys of the Abbey sound airy, innocent and very young.

Their lightness provides an arresting contrast to the burnished blend of the Abbey’s tenors and basses, with a clean, pure alto line to bridge the gap, most effectively in the opening stanza of Taverner’s motet. To those listeners who are used to hearing adult sopranos voice the elaborate imagery of Marian motets, it is odd to hear such leafy simplicity. At best, the openness and lack of guile is refreshing. On occasion, however, the trebles tackle Taverner’s intricate melismatic writing like novice skiers. This nursery slope giddiness is most pronounced in the Gloria and Sanctus of the first Mass. O’Donnell favours brisk tempos throughout, much to the benefit of the Western Wynde Mass. It’s a robust, rhythmic, grounded performance, and is presented with pithy liner notes by Jeremy Summerly, but I won’t be trading in The Tallis Scholars or The Sixteen. ---Anna Picard,

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]]> (bluesever) Taverner John Wed, 07 Mar 2018 10:36:16 +0000
John Taverner - Vocal Works (1984-1993) John Taverner - Vocal Works (1984-1993)

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1. Song: Westron Wynde (solo)

Western Wind Mass
2. Gloria
3. Credo
4. Sanctus & Benedictus
5. Agnus Dei I, II & III

6. Leroy Kyrie

Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas
7. Gloria
8. Credo
9. Sanctus & Benedictus
10. Agnus Dei I, II & III

11. Dum Transisset Sabbatum (responsory)

The Tallis Scholars
Peter Phillips – director


John Taverner (c. 1490–1545) is regarded as the most important English composer of his day. He was also an organist. Taverner was the first Organist and Master of the Choristers at Christ Church, Oxford, appointed by Thomas Cardinal Wolsey in 1526. The college had been founded in 1525 by Wolsey, and was then known as Cardinal College. Immediately before this, Taverner had been a clerk fellow at the Collegiate Church of Tattershall, Lincolnshire. In 1528 he was reprimanded for his (probably minor) involvement with Lutherans, but escaped punishment for being "but a musician". Wolsey fell from favour in 1529, and in 1530 Taverner left the college. So far as we can tell, he had no further musical appointments, nor can any of his known works be dated to after that time, so he may have ceased composition. It is often said that after leaving Oxford Taverner worked as an agent of Thomas Cromwell assisting in the Dissolution of the Monasteries, although the veracity of this is now thought to be highly questionable. He is known to have settled eventually in Boston, Lincolnshire where he was a small landowner and reasonably well-off. He was appointed an alderman of Boston in 1545, shortly before his death on 18th October 1545. He is buried under the belltower at Boston Parish Church. Most of Taverner's music is vocal, and includes masses, Magnificats and motets. The bulk of his output is thought to date from the 1520s. His best-known motet is Dum transisset sabbatum. His best known mass is based on a popular song, The Western Wynde (John Sheppard and Christopher Tye later also wrote masses based on this same song).

Taverner's Western Wynde mass is unusual for the period because the theme tune appears in each of the four parts at different times. Commonly his masses are designed so that each of the four sections (Gloria, Credo, Santus-Benedictus and Agnus) are the about same length, often achieved by putting the same number of repetitions of the thematic material in each. For example in the Western Wynde mass, the theme is repeated nine times in each section. As the sections have texts of very different lengths, he uses extended melisma in the movements with fewer words. Several of his other masses use the widespread cantus firmus technique, where a plainchant melody with long note values is placed in an interior part, often the tenor. Examples of cantus firmus masses include Corona Spinea and Gloria tibi Trinitas. Another technique of composition is seen in his mass Mater Christi, which is based upon material taken from his motet of that name, and hence known as a "derived" or "parody" mass. The mass Gloria tibi Trinitas gave origin to style of instrumental work known as an In nomine. Although the mass is in six parts, some more virtuosic sections are in reduced numbers of parts, presumably intended for soloists, a compositional technique used in several of his masses. The section at the words "in nomine..." in the Benedictus is in four parts, with the plainchant in the alto. This section of the mass became popular as an instrumental work for viol consort. Other composers came to write instrumental works modelled on this, and the name In nomine was given to works of this type. ---

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]]> (bluesever) Taverner John Fri, 22 Jun 2012 16:58:43 +0000
Taverner - Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas (The Sixteen) Taverner - Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas (The Sixteen)

1  Movement 1: Gloria  [12'29] 
2  Movement 2: Credo  [10'17] 
3  Movement 3: Sanctus and Benedictus  [9'25] 
4  Movement 4: Agnus Dei  [8'34] 
5  Audivi vocem de caelo  [4'16]

The Sixteen
Harry Christophers - conductor


Not a great deal is known about the life of John Taverner. He is thought to have been born around 1490 in Lincolnshire, and is first documented in 1525 as a lay clerk at the collegiate church of Tattershall, a musical establishment of some importance. Later that year he was recommended by Bishop Longland of Lincoln for the new post of Informator (choirmaster) at Cardinal College (now Christ Church), Oxford, founded by Cardinal Wolsey and lavishly endowed with a choir of sixteen choristers and twelve ‘clerkes skilled in polyphony’. After overcoming an initial reluctance to leave the security of Tattershall, he accepted this prestigious invitation in time for the formal opening of the College in October 1526. Its glory proved to be short-lived, however, and after Wolsey’s fall from power in 1529 its fortunes and finances soon began to decline. Taverner resigned the post in 1530. For the next seven years his whereabouts are unknown. Possibly he worked as a freelance musician in London, or perhaps he returned directly to Lincolnshire. From 1537 Taverner was in Boston, maybe employed as an agent for Thomas Cromwell, who had been commissioned by Henry VIII to carry out a survey and valuation of the lesser monasteries and friaries prior to their dissolution. There is no truth in the persistent claim that Taverner was a fanatical persecutor in carrying out these duties. The significance of the often-quoted note in the 1583 edition of Foxe’s Acts and Monuments that Taverner came ‘to repent him very much that he had made songs to popish ditties in the time of his blindness’ may well have been exaggerated; Foxe, an ardent Protestant, was writing some forty years after the composer’s death, and the term ‘popish ditties’ remains open to interpretation. On the contrary, there is documentary evidence that Taverner had genuine concern for the welfare of the monks and friars. The assumption that he ceased to compose after leaving Oxford is based on speculation, since a proportion of his output has probably been lost and what has survived is not always easy to date. Taverner died in 1545 and was buried beneath the famous ‘stump’ of Boston church.

As the undisputed master of his generation, Taverner witnessed and greatly contributed to the final phase in the development of the florid style that had dominated English sacred music since the death of John Dunstable in 1453. If the works of Taverner’s immediate precursor, William Cornysh (died 1523), represent the peak of sheer virtuosity, those of Taverner himself seem to proceed along a rather more serene path regulated as much by harmonic considerations as purely melodic ones.

The music of the generation before Taverner—for instance the unequivocally medieval florid writing of the Eton Choirbook—is the glorious culmination of a predominantly insular culture, developed and sustained in those great choral institutions which had been founded or substantially expanded in the fifteenth century. Some of Taverner’s music remains firmly in this late-medieval tradition as regards form and aesthetic, even if the style is stripped of some of its florid detail. But in other works (presumably the later ones) there is evidence of a growing awareness of contemporary continental features, particularly in the systematic use of imitation, and a tendency towards clarity of texture and simplification of rhythm and line.

The music of Taverner, taken as a whole, represents the final development of the florid late-medieval English style, coupled with the assimilation of new aesthetic and technical features which indicate the growing influence of continental thought and practice. Individual works embody these two facets of Taverner’s music in varying degrees, depending mainly on liturgical form and function, but also, to a certain extent, on their chronological position within the composer’s output.

Gloria tibi Trinitas is deservedly the best-known of Taverner’s three large-scale festal masses and took pride of place as the first item to be copied into the so-called Forrest-Heyther part-books, thought to have been compiled for use at Cardinal College during Taverner’s tenure of office. Its title is derived from the plainchant cantus firmus ‘Gloria tibi Trinitas’, one of the antiphons for Trinity Sunday and doubly appropriate in view of the College’s dedication to the Trinity. Scored for six-part choir with the high trebles so characteristic of English music of this period, the Mass is a masterpiece of finely balanced construction. Its cantus firmus, assigned to the mean part, is stated three times in each movement, in progressive rhythmic diminution. (The one exception to this pattern occurs in the Agnus Dei, where the expected second statement of the chant is omitted in favour of a freely composed passage of poignant serenity.) As was customary in English festal masses of this period, the Kyrie was not set to polyphony because it would have been sung to troped chant. The four constituent movements, broadly similar in length and outline, are linked by a common head motif. Within each one, variety of texture is brought about through the contrast between sonorous passages for full choir (invariably incorporating cantus firmus) and more delicately scored verses, often more imitative in conception.

The unusual grace that characterizes the section of the Benedictus beginning at ‘In nomine Domini’ was evidently recognized by contemporary musicians, several of whom included it in their anthologies of favourite extracts. Not only was it arranged for a variety of vocal and instrumental ensembles, but it also provided the inspiration for a new genre of major importance. Known as the ‘In nomine’, this instrumental form was distinguished by its cantus firmus, the ‘Gloria tibi Trinitas’ plainchant, and it was widely cultivated by English composers up to the end of the seventeenth century.

Taverner’s setting of the Matins responsory for All Saints’ Day, Audivi vocem de caelo, follows the well-established pattern of plainchant alternating with polyphony which incorporates the chant as a cantus firmus. Its unusual scoring for four high voices may be attributable to the liturgical custom associated with All Saints’ Day, whereby the responsory was sung by a group of five boys supposedly representing the five virgins described in the lesson immediately preceding. In fact one of the lower parts is not the work of Taverner, but was added ad placitum by a colleague at Cardinal College, William Whytbroke. --- Sally Dunkley,

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]]> (bluesever) Taverner John Sat, 07 Jul 2012 18:55:12 +0000