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Liturgical Feasts from the 10th-16th centuries
Medieval Christmas celebrations encompassed several feasts, including Circumcision & Epiphany. The Orlando Consort offers an unusual collection of carols ranging from devotional to boisterous, drawn from a 500-year span of secular and liturgical music from England, France and the Low Countries.
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Christmas to Candlemas
Ensemble Gombert, John O’Donnell (musical director)
Ensemble Gombert is one of Australia’s finest choral groups. It is directed by John O’Donnell, an extraordinary musician who is well-known as an organist and harpsichordist, as well as being a highly respected academic. Under his direction this group of singers gives historically informed performances of choral music through the centuries, from Josquin to Arvo Pärt. Ensemble Gombert, heard frequently on ABC-FM, sings regularly in its home city, Melbourne, and is about to undertake a tour of Europe.
Christmas to Candlemas refers to the 40 day period from December 25, the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, commonly called Christmas, to February 2, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, as it is commonly called today, or Candlemas, as it was commonly known in the past, owing to the tradition of lighting candles during the singing of the Nunc dimittis before Mass.
So this is not yet another CD of Christmas music - it is a wide-ranging CD of music celebrating this 40 day period. Director John O’Donnell says: “The works on this disc have been selected from the Christmas to Candlemas programs that Ensemble Gombert has been performing annually since 1994. Often billed as “Melbourne’s carol-free Christmas concert”, Christmas to Candlemas usually features an array of motets and a Mass setting chosen from the vast array of riches from the High and Late Renaissance.”
Gorgeously in-tune performances and a sumptuously resonant recording made in St Xavier’s Chapel in Melbourne, make this CD a must for all lovers of choral music.
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Memento Mei: Songs from the Time of Albertus Pictor
In 1509 one of the greatest Swedish painters, Albertus Pictor, passed away. On church walls and church ceilings, he has told the stories of the Bible and of the eternal questions of life through his art.
The same themes also inspired the composers of the time to move us with musical stories of the Virgin Mary, the life of Christ and of love, death, pain and joy in medieval and renaissance Europe. Medieval man constantly strived to ensure his place in heaven through prayers and good deeds.
Most of all, he turned to the Virgin Mary to pray for her intercession. Above Albertus Pictor’s self portrait in the church of Lid, where he paints himself as a fashion concious man in his prime, he has even written Memento mei Alberto pictor huius ecclesie – ”Remember me, Albertus, painter of this church”
(also available to download from $10.50)
Usually despatched in 4 - 5 working days. (Available now to download.)
Clemens non Papa: Requiem & Penitential Motets
The Brabant Ensemble under their director Stephen Rice presents music for the dark time of the year. Its latest disc of 16th-century polyphony features the extraordinary compositional gifts of Clemens non Papa, put to the service of the Requiem mass and a selection of motets on a pentitential theme. Within this general aspect of solemnity can be found countless shades of expression and emotion.
Despite the popularity of the composer’s music during his lifetime, Clemens is a somewhat marginal figure today and many of these motets have never been recorded before. Yet, listening to this music today, one is immediately enthralled by its opulence and harmonic lushness, very different from the occasionally sterile polyphony of some of the composer’s contemporaries. The Brabant Ensemble’s fresh, uncluttered and sincere performances truly bring this glorious music to life.
“The disc opens with his subdued Requiem Mass. Many groups would have tackled this with exaggerated dynamics, squeeze-boxing every phrase for maximum impact. Here, though, we get absolute calm, good tuning and chordal singing that glows from within...the Ensemble does full justice to the brilliant Tristitia et anxietas, and the De Profundis is thrilling.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2011 ****
“The Brabant Ensemble grips immediately with the pure serenity of its immaculately tuned, perfectly balanced sound...the singers' sumptuous tone at full volume is overwhelming...These are no bored, deadpan monks. One senses everywhere excitement and pleasure in this underperformed repertoire.” Classic FM Magazine, February 2011 *****
“the gravely beautiful requiem mass in four parts that's the main work on this Clemens disc is very contained and often rather understated, qualities that the Brabant Ensemble capture perfectly...the sound of the recording from Merton College Chapel, Oxford, is a little lacking in immediacy, though nicely seraphic.” The Guardian, 27th January 2011 ***
“his Requiem seems a plain and severe thing, especially in the beautiful but very restrained performance by this excellent young choir. Too restrained, I first thought, but on a second hearing the tiny expressive inflections became moving. Give these performances time and they’ll reward you richly.” The Telegraph, 3rd February 2011 ****
“The Brabant Ensemble sing [the Requiem] with an admirable clarity, assisted by a very transparent acoustic and recorded sound image...Clemens and this recording are both worth hearing.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2011
“The singing thorughout is as refined and expressive as one would wish from a small (11-12 voices) and relatively youthful ensemble, under the direction of an intelligent director for whom clarity of diction and mellifluousness of sound are of the utmost importance...this is another fine release by an ensemble...[who are] bringing before the public little-known repertoire, the worth of which it passionately believes in.” International Record Review, March 2011
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I Sing the Birth
The landscape traversed on this disc is broad, from twelfth-century conductus to a twentyfirst-century carol, though the musical centre is firmly polyphonic and rooted in the late medieval world. From the meditative simplicity of plainsong, Polyphony’s diverse voices burst forth as a resplendent flowering of music itself, in expressions of joy and wonder, in contemplation and exuberance alike.
“The four male members of New York Polyphony… are the core performers, augmented as necessary by a trio of female voices, the crystalline purity of the soprano contribution to Kenneth Leighton's setting of the famous 'Coventry Carol' being particularly affecting. They sing most alluringly, superior technique a given but never flaunted, the focus squarely on communicating the deeply emotional wellsprings of much of this music.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2007 *****
Usually despatched in 4 - 5 working days.