Tudor City / New York Polyphony
TUDOR CITY • New York Polyphony • AVIE AV2186 (62:51 Text and Translation)
Music of BYRD, CORNYSH, TALLIS, LAMBE, DUNSTABLE, TAVERNER, TYE, A. SMITH, ANON
This four-man vocal ensemble, based in the Big Apple, has given its second disc a title with a double meaning. Tudor City is a familiar residential landmark in midtown Manhattan, and the program consists largely of music of the Tudor era. Dunstable’s Speciosa facta es and one anonymous piece from the Worcester fragments are earlier than the Tudors, while four works by Andrew Smith (b. 1970), commissioned by the ensemble, are contemporary. Two of his pieces are juxtaposed with earlier works using the same texts, Flos regalis (the Worcester piece) and Magnificat by Taverner.
I cannot find Flos regalis on any previous recording, going all the way back to Denis Stevens’s full LP devoted to the Worcester fragments. The title appears as the cantus firmus of a Mass by Walter Frye, twice recorded ( Fanfare 16:6 and 24:2), but the Mass has been linked to a lost antiphon or a lost responsory, neither of which matches this text after the first two words. The Dunstable is familiar from the Gothic Voices (11:2, reissued in 33:6) and the Orlando Consort (24: 1), but there were three earlier versions in the LP era. Lambe’s Stella caeli has been recorded by Harry Christophers three times, for Meridian (9:4), Hyperion, and Collins (17:5), and by the Orlando Consort (26:4). For Gaude Virgo Mater Christi , William Cornysh should not be dated as “died 1523,” for the composer of this work, which survives in the Eton Choirbook, died in 1502. It has been recorded by Andrew Carwood (21:2), Peter Phillips (12:5), and Harry Christophers (9:2). Most of the Tallis selections comprise five of the nine brief tunes for Archbishop Parker’s psalter, recorded complete by Peter Phillips (10:3, since reissued) and Alistair Dixon (in the sixth volume of his complete Tallis). The longest work on the program is Taverner’s Magnificat à 4, recorded most recently by Harry Christophers (17:4).
The difference between this all-male ensemble and the other groups (only Orlando is all-male, but it has a countertenor on top) are evident. To compare only the closest rival, this group takes the Lambe work a whole tone lower than the Orlando, and the latter is noticeably livelier, though not all that much faster overall. The new version of the Dunstable is even lower than the Orlando rendition, but here this group moves right along. So if you should have a sizable collection of these pieces, the new disc will demonstrate equally fine interpretations with a darker tone of voice. This is an ensemble to reckon with, and its versions are worthy of close comparison.
FANFARE: J. F. Weber
Catalog Number: AV2186
Composer: Andrew Smith, Christopher Tye, John Dunstable, John Taverner, Thomas Tallis, Walter Lambe, William Byrd, William Cornysh, Worcester Frag Anonymous
Orchestra/Ensemble: New York Polyphony
Performer: New York Polyphony