Henry's Music, QuintEssential, A. Lawrence-King, Alamire, D. Skinner
(released on May 1, 2009)
The vocal sound -- clean, beautifully tuned and blended -- is weighted toward male voices, with an earthy, somber tone in the low-oriented pieces. The motets from the manuscript are all worth hearing, devotions to Mary and prayers on behalf of the king. The singers use a largely English pronunciation of Latin, with Jesu as "Jesu" instead of "Yesu" and "spetsialem" for specialem, for example. The historical instrument ensemble QuintEssential provide some contrasts with short dance and consort pieces, the inimitable sound of the cornets and sackbutts, well played, but typically braying. Gothic harpist Andrew Lawerence-King adds another interesting color to the palette, an at times clumsy, metallic (even twangy, almost sitar-like) sound that has interest but not necessarily beauty. The primary attraction is in the vocal selections, from the excellent sacred music (especially the harmonically surprising Salve radix and the thickly textured and cross-relation-laden Quam pulchra es, by the mysterious composer known as Sampson, and the rather sublime Marian antiphon Sub tuum praesidium by one Benedictus de Opitiis, all from the manuscript) to the lighter secular songs, mostly by Henry VIII.