Robert Parsons: First Great Service; Responds for the Dead

Robert Parsons: First Great Service; Responds for the Dead

by Barnaby Smith
     
 

Robert Parsons is something of a forgotten man of English Renaissance music, and annotator and conductor Barnaby Smith discusses in the booklet a startling reason why: Parsons fell into the River Trent and drowned in 1572, and there was "upset and suspicion surrounding his death" -- apparently to the point where the choristers of the Chapel Royal uneasily began to… See more details below

Overview

Robert Parsons is something of a forgotten man of English Renaissance music, and annotator and conductor Barnaby Smith discusses in the booklet a startling reason why: Parsons fell into the River Trent and drowned in 1572, and there was "upset and suspicion surrounding his death" -- apparently to the point where the choristers of the Chapel Royal uneasily began to avoid his music. If anyone is inspired to write a mystery novel yet, know that you'll have an additional selling point to use when your agent tries to get your book turned into a movie: Parsons' music is an attractively varied lot that reflects its time and would offer all kinds of ideas to an enterprising director. Parsons lived from around 1530 to 1572, and his career thus coincided with the musical beginnings of the Reformation in England. The program is structured as an imagined musical requiem for Parsons that he never had in his own time -- not an actual service for the dead but a collection of Parsons' works that both represents his output and contains some funeral music -- a group of Latin responds (responsories) for the dead. Both Latin- and English-language pieces are included, and the differences between them contribute part of the interest of the program. The opening "Magnificat," in Latin, is a remarkably varied piece of High Renaissance polyphony in terms of texture -- so much so that Parsons almost seems to ignore the Renaissance homogeneous sound idea. Something always seems to be happening in this piece: voice pairs and trios and quartets trade off, with a different grouping each time, and canonic passages provide a sharp contrast with sections that have the quality of free fantasy. The English-language "First Great Service" is soberer in comparison, but doesn't have the spare quality of Tallis' Anglican anthems -- one senses that Parsons was trying to find a middle ground between the big polyphonic style and the Protestant spirit. The young mixed-gender singers of Smith's Voces Cantabiles deliver a fresh, accurate take on the classic British cathedral sound, and really the only disagreeable experiences here result from Naxos' having cut corners; the "First Great Service" was recorded in a different church from the rest of the music (with unsettling results), the cheesy cover photo is from an Internet stock collection, and listeners unfamiliar with the Book of Common Prayer will have to look it up on the Internet -- no texts are included. These irritants merely blemish a fine recording that will fill a hole in many a Renaissance or English music collection.

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Product Details

Release Date:
12/11/2007
Label:
Naxos
UPC:
0747313045174
catalogNumber:
8570451
Rank:
271625

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Magnificat, for 6 voices  - Robert Parsons  - Voces Cantabiles  - Oliver-John Ruthven  - Barnaby Smith
  2. First Service (Great Service): Venite  - Robert Parsons  - Matthew Venner  - Voces Cantabiles  - Simon Whiteley  - Catherine Backhouse  - Robin Bailey  - William Balkwill  - William Balkwill  - Greg Hallam  - Barnaby Smith  - Christopher Wardle  - Amy Wood
  3. First Service (Great Service): Te Deum  - Robert Parsons  - Matthew Venner  - Voces Cantabiles  - Simon Whiteley  - Catherine Backhouse  - Robin Bailey  - William Balkwill  - William Balkwill  - Greg Hallam  - Barnaby Smith  - Christopher Wardle  - Amy Wood
  4. Responds for the Dead, for chorus: Peccantem me, quotidie  - Robert Parsons  - Voces Cantabiles  - Barnaby Smith
  5. First Service (Great Service): Benedictus  - Robert Parsons  - Matthew Venner  - Voces Cantabiles  - Simon Whiteley  - Catherine Backhouse  - Robin Bailey  - William Balkwill  - William Balkwill  - Greg Hallam  - Barnaby Smith  - Christopher Wardle  - Amy Wood
  6. Responds for the Dead, for chorus: Libera me, Domine  - Robert Parsons  - Voces Cantabiles  - Barnaby Smith
  7. First Service (Great Service): Creed  - Robert Parsons  - Matthew Venner  - Voces Cantabiles  - Simon Whiteley  - Catherine Backhouse  - Robin Bailey  - William Balkwill  - William Balkwill  - Greg Hallam  - Barnaby Smith  - Christopher Wardle  - Amy Wood
  8. Responds for the Dead, for chorus: Credo quod redemptor  - Robert Parsons  - Voces Cantabiles  - Barnaby Smith
  9. First Service (Great Service): Magnificat  - Robert Parsons  - Matthew Venner  - Voces Cantabiles  - Simon Whiteley  - Catherine Backhouse  - Robin Bailey  - William Balkwill  - William Balkwill  - Greg Hallam  - Barnaby Smith  - Christopher Wardle  - Amy Wood
  10. First Service (Great Service): Nunc dimittis  - Robert Parsons  - Matthew Venner  - Voces Cantabiles  - Simon Whiteley  - Catherine Backhouse  - Robin Bailey  - William Balkwill  - William Balkwill  - Greg Hallam  - Barnaby Smith  - Christopher Wardle  - Amy Wood
  11. Ave Maria for 5 voices  - Robert Parsons  - Voces Cantabiles  - Barnaby Smith

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