Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks, vol. 3
Nicholas Ludford: Missa Inclina cor meum
John Mason: Ave fuit prima salus
Restored by Nick Sandon
The third installment in its pathbreaking 5-CD series of music from the Peterhouse partbooks. this disc features Nicholas Ludford’s mysterious and enchanting Missa Inclina cor meum, along with a votive antiphon addressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ave fuit prima salus by John Mason.
This is the world premiere recording of all the music included.
"Exemplary ... suffused with elegance and polish, ... intense, expressively heightened dramas that unfold in a kind of purified, meditative slow motion."
Matthew Guerrieri, The Boston Globe
Chosen as one of the five best releases of 2014 by Barry Brenesal of Fanfare Magazine. ("Want List"). Brenesal explained: "In a year of excellent choral releases, Blue Heron's third entry in their Peterhouse Partbooks series took pride of place. Their combination of technical acuity and great care over expressive phrasing continues to impress, long after other ensembles that place maximum emphasis on internal balance fade slightly into the background."
"The Mason piece in particular is rather strange and quite wonderful, and the Blue Heron choir’s sound is sumptuously rich as always. An essential purchase for all early music and choral collections."
Rick Anderson, CD Hotlist ("Rick's Pick" for October 2013).
"I love this CD! The performances and the music itself are sublime, seductive, and soul-satisfying. And the sound is gorgeous."
Susan Miron, The Arts Fuse
"Blue Heron has brought its unique gifts as a choral ensemble to bear on repertoire that is not only historically important but of a transcendent beauty. We owe them a debt of gratitude not only musicologically, but simply for their revelation of this almost forgotten repertory as music. Sublime music sung sublimely."
Selected as one of "13 Favorites from 2013" by WGBH Radio (Classical New England)
The scholar David Skinner has called Ludford “one of the last unsung geniuses of Tudor polyphony.” Ludford and Mason are almost completely unknown, but this series of recordings reveals these composers to be every bit the equal of the big names from the period such as Tallis and Taverner. Barry Brenesal wrote in Fanfare (Sept./Oct. 2012) “This album and its predecessor…are the beginning of an exciting series, more than hinting at the wealth of great sacred music written by English composers between roughly 1500 and 1540…top marks in all respects: engineering, liner notes—by the group’s director, Scott Metcalfe—and, of course, the performances themselves.”
Our understanding of English music from the early sixteenth century is grievously hindered by a historical tragedy, the destruction of most manuscripts of English sacred music during the religious upheavals of the 16th and 17th centuries. The Reformation regarded the florid music of late medieval Catholicism with disdain, if not outright hostility, and much was lost or deliberately destroyed by zealots. Fewer than ten significant sources survive from the period 1500-1547, much less than one might have found in just one well-stocked church music library at the time. The Peterhouse partbooks are the largest extant source and contain nearly 50 pieces not found complete anywhere else. Despite the enormous importance of this source to music history and the extremely high quality of much of the music contained in it, it has received short shrift from performers and musicologists alike owing to the fact that the tenor partbook, along with a portion of the treble, has been missing for centuries. This has prevented singers from performing the fifty pieces in the partbooks that survive complete in no other source—until recently, that is. Blue Heron’s performances of the incomplete Peterhouse music rely on reconstructions by the English musicologist Nick Sandon, who has devoted his career to retoring this repertoire to its rightfully prominent place.
The CD booklet includes extensive notes by Scott Metcalfe on the Peterhouse partbooks, the music by Ludford and Mason, and on the performance practice of music from the period. A detailed account by Nick Sandon of the Peterhouse partbooks, their place in history, and the process of restoring the missing music, may be found in the notes to the Volume 1 of the series, Hugh Aston: Three Marian Antiphons (BHCD 1002); the notes may also be read online or downloaded at Blue Heron’s website (www.blueheronchoir.org
), where you will also find links to more information on the project, including recorded interviews with Nick Sandon and Scott Metcalfe.