Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks, vol. 4
Robert Jones: Missa Spes nostra
Nicholas Ludford: Ave cujus conceptio
Robert Hunt: Stabat mater
Restored by Nick Sandon
The fourth installment in its pathbreaking 5-CD series of music from the Peterhouse partbooks contains the world premiere recording of the only surviving Mass of Robert Jones (fl.1520-1535), who was employed in the royal chapel during the reign of Henry VIII. Lyrical and mellifluous, the mass is a mature work, revealing a Master composer at the height of his power. The completely unknown composer Robert Hunt left behind a stunning work that brilliantly highlights the drama of the Stabat mater story.
"The superb Boston-based choir Blue Heron have released Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks, vol. 4, featuring works of Robert Jones, Nicholas Ludford, and Robert Hunt in reconstructions by Nick Sandon. Almost nothing is known about Jones (fl. 1520-35), yet his Missa Spes nostra is, as Scott Metcalfe writes in his notes, the 'unique creation of a mature composer with a distinct individual voice.' Flowing vocal lines are interspersed with tart, ambiguous harmonies; there is a canny use of musical space, a sense of height and depth to the unfolding structures. As on previous releases, the singing is both precise and fluid, immaculate and alive. In Robert Hunt's Stabat mater, another remarkable piece by an otherwise unknown composer, the choir swells to a darkly splendid climax at 'Stabat natus sic contentus / Ad debellandum Sathanam,' the latter name slicing through the air."
Alex Ross, The New Yorker | Aug. 25, 2015
"Ludford’s Marian votive antiphon Ave cujus conceptio is pure joy and a major discovery. I would fully endorse Sandon’s claim in the Introduction to the Antico edition that Ludford... is shown by his Peterhouse works to be ‘a highly individual, imaginative, resourceful and polished composer, fit to be ranked alongside Taverner’ – high praise! The choir does Ludford ample justice, dipping and soaring effortlessly in his long-drawn phrases while pointing up the pervasive but never rigid imitation that binds the textures together and prefigures the procedures of such as Tallis and Byrd."
Hugh Leyte, Early Music Review (UK) | Sept. 1, 2015
"Metcalfe’s expressive singers...go from strength to strength; the tone is always pellucid, the phrases beautifully shaped, the ensemble perfect, the tuning shining. The sopranos soar effortlessly into the skies. This group is an American treasure...Bravo!"
Tom Moore, EMAg | Winter 2015/16
"A superb example of what Scott Metcalfe has achieved with Blue Heron: an ensemble that yields to none for intonation, blend, and clarity, yet also utilizes both overall and part-related dynamics as an expressive device in a way most other professional choirs of its quality do not. Metcalfe is alive to the lyricism that was a remarked-upon feature of 15th century English music, and the beauty of Blue Heron's phrasing displays this everywhere on this disc.…The entire series to date is worth the purchase.... Strongly recommended.”
Barry Brenesal , Fanfare | Sept. 2015
"Like a cool glass of water after a long walk in the desert... sung with the sweet and burnished tone and colorful but seamless blend that are Blue Heron’s hallmark. No classical collection can afford to pass up any disc in this series."
Rick Anderson, CDHotList | Sept. 2015
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 restoring this repertoire to its rightfully prominent place.
The CD booklet includes extensive notes by Scott Metcalfe on the Peterhouse partbooks, the music by Jones, Hunt and Ludford, 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.