Passiontide: Holy Week In The Courts Of Europe
£5.99 – £9.99
About this release
Rediscover Passiontide through exquisite vocal motets from master composers of the Baroque era. Bringing together three beautiful Passiontide works for tenor soloist and small ensemble, this recording revisits some of the most outstanding, but little performed repertoire of the Baroque in powerful performances from talented musicians of Birmingham Conservatoire.
Commissioned Programme Note
Miserere à Voix Seule – Michel Richard de Lalande
Michel Richard de Lalande (born 15th December, 1657) composed much of the repertoire that crowns the French Baroque era. He was a singer, violinist, organist and harpsichordist though, after being refused a place in Lully’s orchestra, he vowed never to play the violin again. Lalande was the favourite of King Louis XIV; initially appointed as one of the four composers responsible for court music, but as each one retired he was allowed to take over each of their duties until, in 1709, he became the sole composer at the court. The King instructed his court copyists to copy out all his Grand Motets for use in the chapel at Versailles and Lalande is particularly known for these works, of which (among others) ‘De Profundis’ is particularly well known and admired. As proof of their quality they continued to be performed after his death in 1726. This was in no small part down to the very expensive production of a new edition (unheard of for a composer no longer living) in 1729. Despite the success of these motets, his Petits Motets still remain, largely, unknown. The piece recorded on this CD, Miserere à Voix Seule, is possibly the finest example of such a composition. Lalande married singer Anne Rebel in 1684 and their two daughters were both supported, at court, by Louis. Both died of smallpox in 1711 and the King held a memorial service the following year in their honour. After Louis XIV died in 1715, Lalande began to transfer his court duties to his students, eventually requesting that his salary be decreased and that the chapel return to the four composer arrangement of previous years. In 1722, Lalande’s wife died though he remarried in 1723 and had another daughter. Three years later, in 1726, he succumbed to pneumonia and died, leaving some of the finest choral and orchestral music ever written. Read more
The precise composition date of the Miserere à Voix Seule is not known. In Philidor’s Catalogue of 1729 he writes that it was “sung by Les Mesdemoiselles DeLalande to the admiration of all Paris”. This means the work must have existed in some form by 1711, when both daughters died. Like much of Lalande’s output it was revised several times after the initial composition. A version dating from c.1714 includes plainsong harmonisations by S. de Brossard, which are used in this recording. The score contains certain passages marked “pour l’orgue”. There is some suggestion that these may be the remnants of an obbligato violin part, though no such part has ever been found. It is well documented that the Miserere was a stunningly popular work. The number of copies made of it is testament to this, as well the fact that it was still being performed in 1770 long after Lalande’s death.
The work takes psalm 51 as its text and sets verses alternately between solo voice and plainsong chorus. The manuscript is covered with ornamentation, carefully notated to bring life to the text. Much of Lalande’s work is influenced by the Italian school and the Miserere is no exception. The long flowing melismas of Aspergers Me contrasting beautifully with the moving simplicity of Cor Mundum. The petit motet setting of this text shares some music with the grand motet Miserere and this is certainly to its credit. This is surely some of the finest writing, not just of Lalande, but of the whole wealth of French Baroque music.
Pianto Della Madonna – Giovanni de Sances
Giovanni de Sances (born c.1600) is a composer about whom, sadly, very little is known. He was an Italian tenor and composer. He was born in Rome in about 1600 and studied in Bologna and Venice. Having moved to Vienna in 1636, where he was employed as a singer in the Imperial Court Chapel, he was appointed vice-Kapellmeister in 1649. He used this post to stage many of his operas. Today six of these are known, though three have been lost. Sances also wrote a wealth of sacred music including sixty masses, cantatas and other motets, including the Stabat Mater on this CD. In 1689 he became the Imperial Kapellmeister though was only able to carry out his responsibilities until 1673 when he became ill. He died in Vienna in 1679.
The beauty of the Stabat Mater is in its simplicity. Recitative sections give a framework around the constantly repeating ground bass (lasting only two bars) over which the voice part sings. The vocal writing, highly decorative and elaborate, is reminiscent more of a violin part and requires great skill to perform. Some modern performers do, in fact, include a violin part though here it is kept as bare as possible, using just organ accompaniment, to remain faithful to the text. The text is a 13th century Catholic hymn to Mary, mother of Jesus depicting the agony she felt at her son’s crucifixion. Sances’ choice of text is strange, as the poem was suppressed as a liturgical text by the Council of Trent in the 16th century. Nonetheless, it remains one of his best known pieces and is an example of word painting of the highest quality.
Lamentations I: for Good Friday – Jan Dismas Zelenka
Jan Dismas Zelenka (born 16th October, 1679) is a composer about whose music very little has come to light. The Royal Court at Dresden where he worked seemed to have, very carefully, guarded his compositions. Until recently the only music known by him was one of a select number of pieces he gave away during his lifetime, and even some of those are no longer believed to have been composed by him. Zelenka was educated at the Jesuit College in Prague and, so, remained a Catholic despite the prevalence of Lutheranism in Germany at that time. In 1697 the King-Elector Augustus the Strong of Saxony (Dresden was the capital city of Saxony) took the Polish crown. This required him to take the Roman Catholic faith, despite governing a predominantly Lutheran state. For Zelenka, the two religious faces of the Court could not have been more convenient. In 1735 he became the Court Composer of Church Music at the Royal Court, in recognition of the sacred music he composed for the Catholic Church. The deeply Lutheran J.S. Bach, on the other hand, was given the title of Royal Court Composer. It is the Catholic nature of Zelenka’s compositions which may help to explain, also, why his music was largely forgotten. Zelenka’s life was, largely, very uneventful. Apart from a several commissions and his travels to Prague (when, in 1723, he was commissioned to compose for the coronation of Emperor Charles VI) and to Italy (to Venice, to study with Fux) very little of note ever happened to him. He was never married and had no children. He died in Dresden on 23rd December 1745, and was buried in the Catholic cemetery. No trace of his grave is left, but there is now a small plaque in the graveyard to commemorate his life. Perhaps the greatest tribute to the largely forgotten Zelenka, however, is a letter from C.P.E Bach to Forkel in 1775. In it, he states that his father, J.S. Bach, had held the music of Zelenka in the very highest esteem.
The Lamentations recorded on this disk are part of a set of six settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah – two lessons each from Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Eve. Confusion has sometimes arisen because these lessons were from services celebrated as Tenebrae services the evening before each day. Zelenka titled each set for “Wednesday”, “Thursday” and “Friday” respectively. Most editors have now, however, re-aligned the titles to their appropriate days. This particular setting shows clearly the Italian influences on Zelenka, from his time spent studying with Fux (and possibly also with Lotti) in Venice: The arioso style of the Hebrew letters allows the composer to develop the music in his own way, while the actual text of the lesson is delivered in traditional, secco recitiative. Zelenka, here, breaks with convention, and extends and elaborates the final “Ierusalem, convertere!” to create a much stronger, more emotional call to repentance.
(Joe Waggott, 2012)
About the artists
The ensemble’s name comes from Apollo, the God of music in Greek mythology. It is also a reference to the Sun King, Louis XIV of France who played Apollo in Lully’s ballet Le Ballet de la Nuit. As a great patron of music it was this performance which earned him the title ‘Le Roi Soleil’. An early obsession with music from the French Baroque shaped our initial performances and projects. Since then as we’ve grown in ability and knowledge the repertoire of the ensemble has become broader, encompassing a wide range of music from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Our projects have included performances of major works such as Handel’s Acis and Galatea and Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Requiem, as well as more niche projects: in 2015 the ensemble began a project exploring the relationship between Marc-Antoine Charpentier and the now-forgotten Italian master, Giovanni Battista Mazzaferrata. Our 2012 CD Passiontide: Holy Week in the Courts of Europe was released to critical acclaim.
Chris Fitzgerald-Lombard,originally from Norwich, graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire having studied singing with Julian Pike and Andrew King. As a choral and ensemble singer Chris has worked with some of the UK’s leading ensembles and conductors.
Recently he has appeared with Ex Cathedra, Genesis Sixteen, Armonico Consort, the Convivium Singers, the Chapter 5 Vocal ensemble and Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir. Chris has worked with renowned conductors including Paul Spicer (Birmingham Bach Choir, Finzi Singers), Jeffery Skidmore (Ex Cathedra), Malcolm Archer (Wells and St Paul’s Cathedrals), Harry Christophers and Eamonn Dougan (The Sixteen). Increasingly in demand as a soloist Chris’ recent solo engagements have included works by Britten, Dvorak, Monteverdi, Mozart and Walton.
Chris, now living in London, is a ‘full time’ freelance singer, which sounds very glamorous but he would, however, point out that the financial benefits are similar to unemployment and you’re always out when the good TV is on!
- Miserere à Voix Seule, part I - Michel-Richard De Lalande
- Miserere à Voix Seule, part II - Michel-Richard De Lalande
- Miserere à Voix Seule, part III - Michel-Richard De Lalande
- Miserere à Voix Seule, part IV - Michel-Richard De Lalande
- Miserere à Voix Seule, part V - Michel-Richard De Lalande
- Miserere à Voix Seule, part VI - Michel-Richard De Lalande
- Miserere à Voix Seule, part VII - Michel-Richard De Lalande
- Miserere à Voix Seule, part VIII - Michel-Richard De Lalande
- Miserere à Voix Seule, part IX - Michel-Richard De Lalande
- Pianto Della Madonna - Giovanni De Sances
- Lamentatio I (for Good Friday) - Jan Dismas Zelenka
Catalogue number: CR015
Tenor Chris Fitzgerald-Lombard
Ensemble Apollo Baroque Consort
Violin Dominika Fehér, Dominic Waggott
Viola Rosie Rushton
Bass Violin / Cello Hetti Price
Theorbo Richard MacKenzie
Choir Nick Bridgman, Will Drakett, Richard Parker
Organ / Conductor Joe Waggott
Photography Tom Kuglin
Engineering Adaq Khan, Adrian Green
Mastering Adaq Khan
Producer Adrian Green, Andrew Fletcher
Creative Director John Bevan
Executive Producer Adrian Green
Recorded 17, 18 February, 2012
Venue St Alban the Martyr, Highgate, Birmingham
Total Duration 49 mins