Sunday, June 25, 2006

This Be The Verse


Last Sunday was Father's Day here in the UK, and the standard currency for presents for Pliable are Prelude Records vouchers. The delights these have brought in previous years include Mikhail Pletnev's wonderful CPE Bach Sonatas and Rondos. This year brought a real discovery, Hyperion's new release of Thomas Crecquillon's Missa Mort m'a privé. In 1539 Isabella — wife of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and undisputed king of much of Europe — died in childbirth. Charles’s grief was profound, and we can share it today through his commissions in memory of his beloved wife. Titian, the leading painter of the day, was commissioned to create a number of posthumous portraits, his Portrait of Empress Isabella of Portugal is used on the CD liner, and is reproduced below. Charles turned to his chapel master Thomas Crecquillon to create a musical tribute, and it is remarkable today that so little is known about this composer whose skills were rated alongside Titian.

The performers of Crecquillon's Missa Mort m'a privé are the Brabant Ensemble (who take their name from the area of what is now northern Belgium/southern Holland from which so many great sixteenth-century composers originated). The ensemble, who are shown in the header photo, was formed by performing musicologist Stephen Rice in 1998 to explore the neglected repertory of sacred music from 1520 to 1560. Comprising fifteen young professional singers, this is the group’s first recording for Hyperion.

This CD is a gem. Beautifully sung by fresh, young voices in the peerless acoustics of Merton College, Oxford, which is used for many of the Tallis Scholar's great recordings. There is very little music by Crequillon in the catalogue, He was a European contemporary of Thomas Tallis (who Stephen Rice is an authority on), and his moving, and very fine, sacred music deserves to reach a much wider audience. I am sorry I cannot bring you the usual audio file. Simon Perry of Hyperion explained to me that their website is maintained by a third party in the US, and there is a delay in uploading the audio samples of their new releases. But I strongly recommend Crecquillon's Missa Mort m'a privé to readers, well worth buying if you can't persuade one of the family to give it to you as a present.

Thomas Crequillon's Missa Mort m'a Privé was composed for Empress Isabella who died in childbirth. The jazz-loving Philip Larkin (right) also commented on the traumas of rearing children in This Be The Verse. Although I don't share Larkin's sentiments in the last verse it is one of my favourite poems, here it is:

This Be The Verse

They fvck you up, your mum and dad
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fvcked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.
Philip Larkin, 1971

With apologies for the two deliberate typos in the poem introduced to stop proxy web servers blocking the Path. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to
Poetry to your ears and Peerless Portugese polyphony

4 comments:

Konrad von Swalwagner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pliable said...

Thanks Konrad. In connection with the whole subject of when extreme language is acceptable today's Observer leader offers wise advice.

Last week, Jonathan Ross, the BBC's highest-paid presenter, asked David Cameron, leader of Her Majesty's opposition, in a television interview whether or not he had ever 'wanked over' Margaret Thatcher. It was not a question to which a meaningful answer could be expected. Thus is public life coarsened by degree.

On the same night, Davina McCall, interviewing an evictee from the Big Brother house, admonished the contestant for the foulness of her mouth. The Channel 4 presenter then finished the chat with a knowing look at the camera and a choice 'fuck' of her own. Some swearwords, and some swearers, it seems, are more equal than others. What is clear is that foul language is everywhere. But should it be as commonplace as it seems to be on television? The answer, we'd suggest, is no. The swearword is part of our linguistic arsenal, an ancient instrument of self-expression. If it did not exist, we would have to invent it for those moments when shock is the effect we want to achieve. Sometimes, verbal transgression is the better part of debating valour. But not often.

The problem comes with overuse. Words are a commodity, cheapened when supply runs unchecked. For an expletive to have dramatic effect, it must come in the context of otherwise sober discourse. If every broadcast is peppered with expletives, our language is impoverished. Mr Ross crossed a line in his interview with Mr Cameron last week. Some may have been offended, others amused. But we can say with certainty that it is a stunt that works only once. It definitely won't be funny the next time.


All of which is a million miles from Thomas Crequillon, but I guess, if anything, that is what makes An Overgrown Path so fascinating.

Anonymous said...

I would like to say something about the name Brabant.

Brabant is an old duchy which was part of the Habsburg empire in the 16th century. Brabant was one of the 17 provinces in an area that nowadays cover the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Norhern-France and which in the 16th centrury was ruled by the (Spanish) Habsburgs. In the second half of 16th centrury a revolt took place in the 17 provinces. The northern (seven) Low Countries succeeded in breaking away from the Spanish Habsburg empire and became the Netherlands (or Holland named after the most powerful province). The bulk of the southern Netherlands became the Spanish Netherlands (in the 18th century the Austrian Netherlands and in the 19th centry Belgium).
The province of Brabant was divided in the independence struggle between the northern (independent) Netherlands and the Southern Netherlands. That is why Brabant is nowadays divided between the Netherlands and Belgium. The Netherlands' part is consists of the province Norhern Brabant and the Belgian part consists of the provinces Antwerp and Brabant. Southern Holland is not the same as the Southern Netherlands, because Holland is only a part of the Netherlands. Southern Holland is in a fact a province on its own. It sounds very funny to a Dutchman that Brabant is a part of Southern Holland, bit like that Scotland is part of Norhern England.

Anglican Cistercian Association said...

Although I have a few historical issues with "Anonymnous"'s notes on Brabant, s/he is absolutely right to say that there is no such country as "Holland", never was, never has been, and never will be.
It does not sound "funny" when people say that Brtabant is part of Southern Holland, instead I vcenture to say that it is very offensive indeed (as the sample given re., Scotland and Northern England proves).

The Netherlands, governed from The Hague, occupy the northern part of my Duchy of Brabant since 1648. It is an understatement to comment that it was "unfortunate" that the Prince of Orange's Dutch troops were stationed (and occupied a stronghold) below the rivers Rhine & Meuse when the rest of us gained independence in 1830 (and many years later this included Antwerp, but not Maastricht!.

As our Dukes would have shouted: "Weredi!"

Brabo