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Notes 62.2 (2005) 472-477

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Flame of Ireland: Medieval Irish Plainchant; An Office for Saint Brigit. Canty. Gaudeamus CD GAU 354, 2005.

Canty is a Scottish quartet of female vocalists whose shared résumé includes work with Capella Nova, the Sixteen, the Tallis Scholars, and the Monteverdi Choir; their focus is on the medieval period, though they also commission modern works. On this program they focus on music for the Office of Matins for the Feast of Saint Brigit, the patron saint of Ireland. Their source is the fifteenth-century breviary known as Manuscript 80, which is housed in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, and includes a wealth of material related to Saint Brigit. Much of the music it contains has never been recorded before, and this disc—which includes more than thirty responsories, lections and antiphons from the collection—offers both a fascinating window on the ways the traditional Sarum Rite was adapted for use in Irish churches during this period and a listening experience of rare and sumptuous loveliness. The most obvious point of comparison for Canty is the identically-configured Anonymous 4, and while Canty does not quite achieve the latter's miraculously seamless vocal blend, there is a warmth to Canty's sound that is sometimes lacking in Anonymous 4's highly polished performances. Accompanied by harpist William Taylor (here playing a traditional wire-strung clairseach), the group invests this music with a passionate immediacy that brings to mind some of the exemplary interpretations of Hildegard von Bingen recorded by Sequentia in the 1980s. Very highly recommended to all early music collections.

Christopher Tye. Latin & English Church Music. Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford; Byrde; Richard Pinel / Bill Ives. Harmonia Mundi HMU 907396, 2005.

Christopher Tye is one of the great Tudor composers, one whose posthumous reputation has, perhaps unfairly, been overshadowed by that of his contemporary, Thomas Tallis. This collection brings together four examples of Tye's English church music and ten of his Latin works, including spectacular settings of Miserere mei Deus and Peccavinus cum patribus nostris (as well as the more familiar Omnes gentes plaudite manibus, which is strategically [End Page 472] placed at the beginning of the program). Many of the choral works are accompanied by an organ part, and the program is interspersed with lovely instrumental pieces performed by organist Richard Pinel and the recorder consort Byrde; these interludes are jewels of musical grace in a program that is not, unfortunately, otherwise wholly satisfying. The Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford is not in top form on this recording. The treble voices, in particular, are almost shrill at times and strain to reach some of the higher pitches. Even with their audibly heroic efforts, there are moments (notably about one third of the way through Peccavinus cum patribus nostris) when their intonation is distractingly less than perfect. This is both unfortunate and surprising, given the quality of the group's most recent recording, a very winning account of church music by Orlando Gibbons (With a Merrie Noyse: Second Service and Consort Anthems, Harmonia Mundi HMU 907337 [2004]). This disc will be of solid academic interest, but is not as pleasurable a listening experience as it should have been.

Antonia Padoani Bembo. The Seven Psalms of David, Vol. 1. La Donna Musicale. [self–released], 2004.

While Antonia Padoani was not born into nobility, she was certainly a child of privilege—the daughter of a prominent Venetian physician, she had private music lessons from no less a teacher than Francesco Cavalli, then the maestro di cappella of the cathedral of San Marco. While some of the details of her subsequent musical career remain unclear, what is known indicates that her comfortable childhood gave way to a difficult adulthood: she married a Venetian noble and gave birth to three children, but she later filed for divorce and was left with little financial support. She left her daughter in the care of a local abbess (and her sons, presumably, with her ex-husband), and went to live in a "women's community" in Paris, under the sponsorship of King...


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