A concert to mark the 500th-anniversary of the coronation of Henry VIII
The Cardinall’s Musick [Carys Lane & Cecilia Osmond (sopranos), Patrick Craig & David Gould (altos), William Balkwill & Steven Harrold (tenors), Robert Evans & Robert Rice (baritones) and Edward Grint & Robert Macdonald (basses)]
Reviewed by: Alan Pickering
Reviewed: 20 July, 2009
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London
The 500th-anniversary of the coronation of King Henry VIII probably does not figure too highly in the memory when set against the crop of births and deaths of the major classical composers but, nevertheless, the BBC Proms should be congratulated for reminding us of the contribution that his highness made to the development of music and other arts in England in first half of the 16th-century. Well educated, speaking several languages and an accomplished musician, Henry rapidly expanded the number of musicians at Court with the result that we now have a rich legacy of music from the Tudor era.
Some indication of Henry’s approach to life can be determined from “Pastyme with good companye”, the point of which is “stick to virtue but have a good time”. Henry had opened the coffers, following the period of austerity his predecessor Henry VII had practised, and, as Andrew Carwood remarked during a brief interview with BBC presenter Suzy Klein, “when there’s plenty of money about, the arts do well.”
This lunchtime concert, a nice blend of the sacred and secular, opened with the beautifully sung ‘Pastyme…’. Henry’s folksong was followed by the ‘Gloria’ from Robert Fayrfax’s “Missa ‘Regali ex progenie’”, then another folksong, about lost love, Cornysh’s “Ah, Robin, gentle Robin”. The Andrew Carwood regaled us about the life of Henry VII, including the little-known fact that he accumulated the largest collection of recorders. Then there was a rendition of “Hélas, madame”, another folksong attributed to Henry VIII, one already existing it seems. Fayrfax’s “Benedicite! What dreamed I”, a lover’s dream, was followed by “Psallite felices”, a eulogy in praise of Henry, attributed to Richard Sampson but the authorship is questioned.
The final three pieces were sacred – John Taverner’s “Christe Jesu, pastor bone” originally contained a reference to Cardinal Wolsey but, following his fall from grace for failing to secure Henry a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, it was altered to add a deference to Henry himself. The came Thomas Tallis’s motet “Sancte Deus, sancte fortis” and Ludford’s “Domine Jesu Christe”, written in an older style rather than typical of the English Reformation.
The members of The Cardinall’s Musick under Andrew Carwood excelled themselves, displaying true mastery of this music through their rich voices and excellent vocalisation and harmonisation. Another piece by Tallis served as an encore.