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This disc presents a selection of works from the Chirk Castle part-books, a fascinating collection of devotional music from the Tudor period that remained hidden in the castle library for three hundred years.
The Chirk manuscripts contain works for unaccompanied voices as well as verse anthems and services, scored for solo voices, chorus and organ. This recording focuses on the unaccompanied items, presenting for the first time a selection of the ‘full’ services and anthems found in the manuscripts, including seven unique to the Chirk collection.
Among the ‘new finds’, the most significant are the Te Deum and Benedictus ‘for trebles’ by William Mundy. The two settings are designed on a large scale, exploiting the use of high trebles, and Mundy cleverly employs choral groupings of various types to provide maximum contrast. The textures throughout are reminiscent of Sheppard’s best Latin compositions and by intensifying the contrapuntal activity in the closing sections of both canticles, Mundy takes the music to an even higher level. This is the first recording of these important canticles
“…the Brabant Ensemble is not on unfamiliar ground, for this is the repertory on which its singers cut their teeth. The predominant sonority is familiarly clear, transparent and assured.”
“Here, the Brabant Ensemble turn their attention to English repertory of the same period: the Chirk Castle part–books' chequered history began in Wales, where they were copied for the choral establishment of a rich merchant turned landed gentry. One of the part–books was lost fairly early on, and has been reconstructed. It's been worth the effort, for although much of their repertory is known from other sources, a few significant pieces, here recorded for the first time, are not. These include two works by William Mundy, an English Te Deum and a Benedictus. Both are described as being 'for trebles' in the source; both are conceived on a large scale, and are undoubtedly significant additions to the repertoire. On that count alone this recording is self–recommending. An even greater name among the new additions is that of Tallis: his Notevery one that saith unto me is brief indeed, but then how often is the discovery of an unfinished sketch by Mozart or Bach hailed as a 'significant find'? A new departure it may be but the Brabant Ensemble is not on unfamiliar ground, for this is the repertory on which its singers cut their teeth. The predominant sonority is familiarly clear, transparent and assured, though in the lower range the voices are not quite so well defined as at the top. This soft centre is perhaps attributable to the sound recording, which is rather recessed and slightly unfocused. But for the sake of the new pieces alone, lovers of this repertory will welcome this enthusiastically.”
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