Friday, May 24, 2013

Notes about Polyphony at the Colloquium

Here's is some -- just some -- of the polyphony you will sing at the Sacred Music Colloquium.

Francisco Guerrero (Sevilla, 1528-1599) enjoyed enormous fame in his time, having taken a prominent post as maestro de capilla (singing master, i.e. music director) at Jaén Cathedral in Spain. More than any composer of his generation, he spent his life in Spain and thoroughly reflects the distinctiveness of the Spanish polyphonic tradition, which has distinctive traits as compared with Italian or English polyphony of the period. His rising prominence in our time is most likely due to these traits which include distinct structural roles for each voice and a firm underlying pulse that is inaudible but always present. His Requiem Mass is one of his many masterpieces, and a lesser known Requiem setting. The conductors are Wilko Brouwers and Horst Buchholz.

Orlando Di Lasso (1530-1594) was a Flemish composer of astonishing skill who left us a huge library of music in many styles. His Missa Osculetur Me is written for eight voices and features surprising drama and a rich texture that explores the most advanced polyphonic techniques of his time. Recordings of this piece sometimes feature instruments as a substitute for voices but in the Collequium presentation we will use all voices, to realize an idealization of this masterpiece.It is conducted by Wilko Brouwers and Gregory Glenn.

Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Ave Maria” was written for his Russian Vespers service but the Colloquium will sing a version in Latin. It is surely one of the most emotionally affecting and powerful settings of this glorious text to be found in the treasury of sacred music. It is also something that can be sung by a parish schola. It is conducted by Horst Buchholz.

Josquin de Prez (1450-1521) is a case of a composer who only seems to grow more popular over time. He had a huge influence on nearly every important polyphony composer of the 16th century but his influence continued onward. This “Ave Maria” has never been sung at the Colloquium but is popular among professional polyphonic choirs because of its creative use of shifting ranges and antiphonal repetitions that suggest ethereal joy and celebration. It is conducted by Gregory Glenn.

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