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Twelve Days of Christmas: Music for Henry V

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Music for Henry V and the House of Lancaster, Binchois Consort,
A. Kirkman

(released on September 13, 2011)
Hyperion CDA67868 | 72'47"
Henry V and Henry VI were Kings of England at a critical point in music history, when the so-called contenance angloise, or English manner, was taking hold. The English preference for the intervals of thirds and sixths, which influenced Burgundian composers, was one of the shifts in music that made the eventual development of tonal harmony possible. In the range of music on this new CD, mostly from the early 15th century, devoted to music sung for and in some cases specifically in honor of Henry V, one can hear that shift from medieval to Renaissance style. More importantly, the performances by the Binchois Consort, a small ensemble of six male voices, are both historically faithful, down to the English-inflected pronunciation of the Latin texts, and simply beautiful to hear. This remarkable body of music is, among other things, a tribute to the championship of learned music by both of these monarchs. The disc is centered on an early English cyclic Mass, the Missa Quem malignus spiritus, which was first recorded only a couple years ago, by Calvin Bower and the Schola Antiqua of Chicago. By an anonymous composer, it weaves contrapuntal lines around a cantus firmus, the responsory Quem malignus spiritus, a chant quoted from one of the most famous rhymed Latin office created in the late Middle Ages, in honor of St. John of Bridlington, an Augustinian canon at Bridlington Priory in Yorkshire. Sections of the chant, along with others from the Wollaton Antiphonal (one of the few late medieval manuscripts to survive the violence of the English Reformation), fill out the disc, along with some motets from the same period.

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