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
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If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Poetry to your ears and Peerless Portugese polyphony