Tune Thy Musicke to Thy Hart,
Stile Antico, Fretwork
(released on February 14, 2012)
HMU 807554 | 64'45"
Stile Antico, quite admirably, goes a little off its well-beaten track by partnering here with the fine viol consort Fretwork, whose recordings we have also admired. This makes possible the inclusion of some verse anthems that combine instrumental parts for viols with solo lines -- John Amner's tender Christmas scene O Ye Little Flock, William Byrd's impassioned lament Why Do I Use My Paper, Ink and Pen? (a setting of Henry Walpole's response to having saintly blood spattered on his white doublet at the brutal execution of Catholic martyr Edmund Campion), and Orlando Gibbons's See, See, the Word Is Incarnate -- as well as three settings of the In Nomine counterpoint, for viols alone. These pieces are rarely enough heard, especially the anthems with viols, that these performances are well worth hearing. As sometimes happens with choral groups who are so perfectly balanced, the solo contributions are not necessarily as beautiful, with the exception of the gorgeous high tenor voice of Benedict Hymas in the Byrd piece, one of the more exceptional works in that extraordinary composer's catalog. With such beautiful music, one hardly needs a reason to program it, but the premise presented here is as good as any. These pieces were all composed for private devotion, that is, for groups of regular Christians in their homes -- !!!! -- rather than professional choristers in chapels. Have a listen and weep for the death of musical literacy.