Vittoria ~ Vittoria – Richard Wistreich – Robin Jeffrey – CR3710
£9.99 – £23.99
The absolutely silent atmosphere of St Margaret’s Putney is superb for a very fine but very simple recording. It all sounds like a quartet of performers sitting between the speakers and playing to the listener. A privilege indeed.
Music … is a principall means of glorifying our mercifull Creator, it heightens our devotion, it gives delights and ease to our travails, it expelleth sadness and heaviness of spirit, preserveth people in concord and amity, allayeth fierceness and anger, and lastly, is the best physic for many melancholy hours.
(Henry Peacham, The Compleat Gentleman, first published in 1622).
Domestic music-making, and especially singing songs, both in company and alone, was a regular part of the social and religious life of practically all people in the seventeenth century, irrespective of social standing, and right across Europe. Depending on which side of the Protestant or Catholic confessional divide in which you happened to have been brought up, this could mean starting the day by singing a psalm or a hymn to Mary at daily household prayers; as an accompaniment to household work, or together with small children; in the workshop or the schoolroom; out and about on holidays, perhaps at the tavern, or in church on the major religious festivals; or perhaps as recreation after supper, when family members (including servants) entertained themselves with music-making, both for pleasure and spiritual nourishment. Those men and women far enough up the social scale to have the leisure, education and money to allow it, had access to an increasing diversity of written-down songs, made available in the popular collections that rolled off the presses of Europe’s major publishing centres, that were designed to appeal to this ever-growing market. In many cases, this gave the ‘middle classes’ access to the kinds of sophisticated music hitherto available only to Europe’s elite, although a great deal of published music was intended to serve the spiritual needs of what was at that time an almost universally ‘religious’ world.
At the top of the social spectrum, within the houses of the landed gentry, aristocracy and royalty, song was ubiquitous. It belonged both within the ‘public’ areas of houses where visitors might be entertained and daily religious devotions enacted, and also in more private rooms, reserved for the pursuit of ‘taste’ and the cultivation of knowledge, including the enjoyment of musical settings of fine poetry alongside other kinds of refined pursuits – collections of beautiful art works, furniture, musical instruments, decorative objects and books. In the wealthiest houses, the musicians were often professionals, and unless employed by a religious establishment, courts and aristocratic homes were where some of the finest virtuoso singers were to be found: the concept of the ‘freelance’ singer (or instrumentalist, or composer for that matter) was barely a realistic career choice at this time. But often the family members whom they served also played instruments and sang, and were sometimes highly skilled in music. The modern idea of a clear distinction between ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’, no less the rigid demarcation of ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ music, was much more fluid in the seventeenth-century than it was, for example, in the nineteenth.
The choice of songs in this recording is designed to reflect just this diversity of material and performance styles, and includes an eclectic mixture of the sacred and the profane, and the serious and light, as well as showing the different levels of sheer vocal virtuosity required to perform them. It reflects too, something of the changing styles of writing over the course of the century. The repertoire ranges from intimate and refined settings originally written for court use, but which subsequently became available in print, including the songs by Sigismondo d’India, John Dowland, and the brothers Henry and William Lawes, to grander canvases which depict scenes of highly-charged moments in the bible: Maurizio Cazzati’s two miniature Latin cantatas, the first of which dramatises the Archangel Michael’s defeat of Satan (‘Factum est praelium magnum), and this is contrasted with his intense meditation on Mary at the foot of the cross, a version of the Stabat mater (‘In Calvaria rupe’). The final biblically-derived mini-drama is Henry Purcell’s spectacular setting of Abraham Cowley’s no less spectacular vision of the resurrection of the dead on the Day of Judgment: it is one of Purcell’s most virtuoso and Italianate works, and it is hard to imagine that there were many singers in England capable of performing it at the time of its publication in 1688. The recital opens with two strophic songs on the theme of love: Carissimi’s ‘Vittoria! vittoria! celebrates the singer’s release from Cupid’s chains, while Biagio Marini’s ‘Ecco un legato d’Amore’ leaves little to the imagination, as the singer begs his lover to relieve him of his suffering. Finally, there is a group of English songs, by Thomas Ravenscroft (‘Remember, O thou man’), Thomas Campion (‘Never weather-beaten sail’), and Henry Purcell (‘An Evening Hymn’), which are purely devotional, wonderfully simple in style, and each apt for domestic – even completely private – performance.
Notwithstanding the eclecticism of these songs, what provides an extraordinary continuity across all this repertoire is the fact that there were enduring ideals and principles in the seventeenth century about both the composition of songs and the way they should be performed. Put simply, there was a requirement placed on composers to honour both the poetic structure, and the content and meaning of the text in their musical setting. For singers, the principal imperative was to make the poetry intelligible to the listener; in the words of the composer Ottavio Durante, in the preface to a book of devotional songs (Arie devote) which he published in 1608:
Singers must seek to understand well what they have to sing – in particular if they are singing solo – so that understanding it well and making it their own, they are able to make others who are listening understand it, which is their principal purpose. And they must take care to intone well and sing at an easy pace – that is with a broad beat – putting forth the voice with gracefulness and pronouncing the words clearly so that [others] understand.
© Richard Wistreich
Vittoria, vittoria, mio core Giacomo Carissimi (1605–1674)
|Vittoria, vittoria, mio core!
Non lagrimar più,
È sciolta d’Amore
La vil servitù.Già l’empia a’ tuoi danni
Fra stuolo di sguardi,
Con vezzi bugiardi
Dispose gl’inganni;Le frode, gli affanni
Non hanno più loco,
Del crudo suo foco
È spento l’ardore!Da luci ridenti
Non esce più strale,
Che piaga mortale
Nel petto m’avventi:Nel duol, ne’ tormenti
Io più non mi sfaccio
È rotto ogni laccio,
Sparito il timore!
|Victory, victory, my heart!
weep no longer,
you are freed from Cupid’s
Before, the cruel one used
a multitude of glances to your detriment; with charming lies
she perpetrated her deceits;
The cheats, the anxieties
are no longer;
the ardour of Cupid’s cruel fire
is burned out!
From radiant eyes
come no more arrows
that could mortally wound
I am no longer lost
in suffering or torments,
every tie is broken,
fear has vanished!
Ecco un legato d’Amore Biagio Marini (1594–1663)
|Ecco un legato d’Amore
ferito nel core,
lo sguardo di Clori fu’l dardo,
le trecce catene,
ministri crudeli dell’aspre mie pene.
Ah, Clori amorosa,
non siate ritrosa,
mirate ch’io moro,
deh datemi aita, mio dolce tesoro.
Privo di speme sospiro,
et a voi mi raggiro
cantando il mio duolo,
sperando che l’alte querele
ravivi pietade nel core crudele.
O Clori amorosa,
non siate ritrosa
conforto a chi langue,
deh datemi aita,
Ahi che la vostra partita
Mi nega la vita,
ahi duolo, ahi forte
che avvivi e dai morte.
Per render maggiore
Quel foco, che m’arde
Di dentro e di fuore,
Ohimé che’l mio core
Non può più soffrire!
O morte, vien tosto
Ch’io voglio morire.
|Here is an envoy of Love
wounded in the heart,
Clori’s eyes were the dart,
her braids the chains,
cruel ministers of my sharp pains.
Ah, loving Clori,
don’t be coy,
see that I’m dying,
ah! help me, my sweet treasure.
Denied hope, I sigh,
and play a trick on you,
singing of my suffering,
hoping that my loud complaints
reawaken pity in your cruel heart
Ah, loving Clori,
don’t be coy,
comfort to one who is drooping, ,
ah! help me,
Ah! your departure
Deprives me of life
Ah! suffering, ah! quick
I am beginning to die.
Your laughing at me
makes that fire
greater, so I burn
inside and out.
Oh dear! I can’t
Suffer any longer!
O death, come quickly
As I want to die.
Donna, siam rei di morte Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583–1643)
|Donna, siam rei di morte: errasti, errai:
Di perdon non son degni i nostri errori;
Tu, ch’aventasti in me sì fieri ardori,
Io, ch’a sì caro sol gl’occhi levai,
Io, che una fera rigida adorai.
Tu, che fusti sord’ aspe a miei dolori,
Tu nell’ ira ostinata, io negli amori:
Tu pur troppo sdegnasti, io troppo amai:
Hor la pena lagiù nel fiero averno
Pari al fallo n’aspetta, arderà poi,
Chi visse in foco, in vivo foco eterno:
Quivi, s’Amor fia giusto, ambedue noi
Trà le fiamme dannati averm’ l’inferno:
Tu nel moi cor, ed io negli occhi tuoi.
|Lady, we are worthy of death: you have sinned, and I have sinned. Our sins are not worthy of pardon: you. who engendered in me such a fiery passion; I, who raised my eyes to such a dear sun; I who adored so cold a beast; you who were like a deaf adder to my sorrows; you, who disdained too much, I who loved too much.
It seems our expected end will be down there among the pains of hell, burning all the more: Who lived in fire, will live in eternal fire. Thus, if love is just, both of us are damned to the eternal flames: you in my heart, and I in your eyes.
Che farai, Meliseo? Sigismondo d’India (1582–1629)
|Che farai, Meliseo? Morte rifiutati
Poiché Filli t’ha posto in doglie e lacrime,
Né più come solea lieta salutati.
Qual fiera sí crudel, qual sasso immobile
Tremar non si sentisse entro le viscere
Al miserabil suon del canto nobile.
Poem: Jacopo Sannazaro
|What will you do Meliseo ? Death refuses you, since Filli has put you in sadness and tears, and no longer greets you like the sunshine.
What wild animal so fierce, what immovable rock, did not tremble viscerally at the pitiful sound of noble song?
The Resurrection Henry Purcell (1659–1695)
Begin the Song, and strike the Living Lyre;
Lo how the Years to come, a numerous and well-fitted Quire,
All hand in hand do decently advance,
And to my Song with smooth and equal measures dance.
Whilst the dance lasts, how long so e’re it be,
My Musick’s voyce shall bear it companie.
Till all gentle Notes be drown’d
In the last Trumpets dreadful sound.
That to the Spheres themselves shall silence bring,
Untune the Universal String.
Then all the wide extended Sky,
And all th’harmonious Worlds on high,
And Virgil’s sacred work shall die.
And he himself shall see in one Fire shine
Rich Natures ancient Troy, though built by Hands Divine.
Whom Thunders dismal noise,
And all that Prophets and Apostles louder spake,
And all the Creatures plain conspiring voyce,
Could not whilst they lived, awake,
This mightier sound shall make
When Dead to arise,
And open Tombs, and open Eyes
To the long Sluggards of five thousand years.
This mightier Sound shall make its Hearers Ears.
Then shall the scattered Atoms crowding come
Back to their Ancient Home,
Some from Birds, from Fishes some,
Some from Earth, and some from Seas,
Some from Beasts, and some from Trees.
Some descend from Clouds on high,
Some from Metals upwards fly,
And where the attending Soul naked, and shivering stands,
Meet, salute, and joyn their hands.
As disperst Souldiers at the Trumpets call,
Hast to their Colours all.
Unhappy most, like Tortured Men,
Their Joynts new set, to be new rackt agen.
To Mountains they for shelter pray,
The Mountains shake, and run about no less confus’d than They.
Stop, stop, my Muse, allay thy vigorous heat,
Kindled at a Hint so Great.
Hold thy Pindarique Pegasus closely in,
Which does to rage begin,
And this steep Hill would gallop up with violent course,
’Tis an unruly, and a hard-Mouth’d Horse,
Fierce, and unbroken yet,
Impatient of the Spur or Bit.
Now praunces stately, and anon flies o’re the place,
Disdains the servile Law of any settled pace,
Conscious and proud of his own natural force.
’Twill no unskilful Touch endure,
But flings Writer and Reader too that sits not sure.
Poem: Abraham Cowley
Go lovely rose Henry Lawes (1595–1662)
Go, lovely Rose:
Tell her that wastes her time and me,
That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.
Tell her that’s young,
And shuns to have her graces spied,
That hadst thou sprung
In deserts where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.
Small is the worth
Of beauty from the light retired:
Bid her come forth,
Suffer herself to be desired,
And not blush so to be admired.
Poem: Edmund Waller
Why so pale and wan fond lover? William Lawes (1602–1645)
Why so pale and wan fond lover?
Prithee why so pale?
Will, when looking well can’t move her,
Looking ill prevail?
Prithee why so pale?
Why so dull and mute young sinner?
Prithee why so mute?
Will, when speaking well can’t win her,
Saying nothing do’t?
Prithee why so mute?
Quit, quit for shame, this will not move,
This cannot take her;
If of herself she will not love,
Nothing can make her;
The devil take her.
Poem: John Suckling
Night and Day: to his mistress Henry Lawes (1595–1662)
If when the Sun at Noon displays
his brighter rayes thou but appear;
he then all pale with shame and fear,
quencheth his light, and grows more dimne,
compos’d to thee, then Stars to him.
If thou but show thy face again,
when darkness doth at midnight reign;
darkness fly’s, and light is hurl’d
round about the silent world;
so as alike thou driv’st away both
light and darkness, night and day.
Mistake me not,
I am as cold as hot:
Although my tongue betray my heart o’er night,
‘Ere morn I’m alter’d quite.
Sometimes I burn,
And straight to ice I turn:
There’s nothing so unconstant as my mind,
I charge with every wind.
Perhaps in jest
I said I lov’d thee best.
But ’twas no more than what, not long before,
I vowed to twenty more.
Then prithee see
Thou giv’st no heed to me.
For when I cannot keep my word one day
What hope had’st thou to stay?
|Factum est praelium magnum in coelis
gemino hinc inde exercitus terribiles angelorum acies: pugnavere stetere hinc inde armati in patria quietis exercitus alati:
Tubae hinc inde ferales excitavere ad arma superos immortales.
Sed ecce Michael fulgenti clipeo armatus stetit contra Luciferum et dixit: ‘Tu contra tonantem rebellis armate, de pellere e sede sperasti regnantem: Ah, perfide, ingrate!’
Haec dicens fulmina manu percussit angelos rebelles et dissipavit exercitus eorum; illi vero de coelo cadentes confuso gemitu ululabant dicentes: ‘Ah! miseri percussi sumus, ecce fulminat contra nos Deus. Ecce, amisimus lucem supernam fugiamus in noctem aeternam’.
|There was a great battle in the heavens; fraternal angels, hither and thither, fought each other in dreadful armies of battle arrays. Hither and thither, in the country of peace, the winged armed forces contended.
Here and there, deadly trumpets rouse the heavenly immortals to arms.
But behold! Michael armed with flashing shield, stood firm against Lucifer and said:
‘You, set against the thunderer with rebellious arms, hoped to strike down the ruler from the throne: ah, traitor, ingrate!’
Speaking these thunderbolts, he struck the rebel angels with his hand, and scattered their host; they, in truth, falling from heaven were wailing with disordered lament, saying: ‘Ah! we, wretched ones are smitten. Behold, God thunders against us. Behold, we have lost the celestial light. Let us flee into eternal night.’
|Remember, O thou Man,
O thou Man, O thou Man,
Remember, O thou Man,
Thy time is spent.
Remember, O thou Man,
How thou art dead and gone,
And I did what I can,
Remember Adam’s fall,
O thou Man, O thou Man,
Remember Adam’s fall
From Heaven to Hell.
Remember Adam’s fall,
How we were condemned all
In Hell perpetual,
There for to dwell.
Remember God’s goodness,
O thou Man, O thou Man,
Remember God’s goodness
And his promise made.
Remember God’s goodness,
How he sent his only Son doubtless
Our sins for to redress.
Be not afraid.
|In this trembling shadow, cast
from those boughes which thy winds shake,
Farre from humane troubles plac’d,
Songs to the Lord would I make,
Darknesse from my minde then take,
For thy rites none may begin,
Till they feele thy light within.Musicke all thy sweetnesse lend,
while of his high power I speake,
On whom all powers else depend,
but my brest is now too weake,
trumpets shrill the ayre should breake,
All in vaine my sounds I raise,
Boundlesse power askes boundlesse praise.
|In Calvaria rupe moribundus languebat coelestis Amor, flebant gelida saxa attonitaeque rupes, et colle, et muta Sion. Miserabilis mater, juxta crucem difecta, pallida, gemens et dolorsa stabat.
Lamento di Maria
Fili, dicebat, langues, o fili mi? Video te in tormentis, nec succurrere possum, afflicta mater, o solatium miserae genitricis, o requies, o gaudium cordis mei, cur derelinguis me?
Aria mesta, e adaggio
Volo tecum, volo mori
Ah, concede, Jesu care,
Hoc solatium dolori
Hic lacrimis oppressa, frigida, exsanguis, tremens, fixis in triste lignum, lacrimantibus oculis attonita respexit.
At Jesus moribunda voce clamans, inclinato capite emisit spiritum. Ut vidit membra et corpus pallidum miserabilis mater tunc vero exarsit dolor, sed praenimo maerore, cum loqui vellet, misera non potuit. Ergo gelida sedit super saxum, et quasi flos moriens defecit languida oppressa amaritudine.
O cara mater, o fons amoris,
Afflicta langues praeda maeroris,
Tecum languere, o virgo pia,
Tecum mori desidero, o Maria.
|On the rock of Calvary heavenly Love languished, dying; the cold rocks wept, the thundering mountains and hills wept, and Sion was silent. The pitiful mother stood under the cross, pale, sobbing and full of grief
‘My son’, she said, ‘are you tired to death? I see you in agony but am unable to help you, I your troubled mother: console your suffering mother, hope and happiness of my heart, why do you forsake me?
Sad and slow aria
Bitter with gall
I wish with you to die
Ah, dear Jesus,
Grant this relief for my suffering.
Now oppressed with weeping, shivering, pale, trembling, she turned her tear-filled eyes to the sad tree.
But Jesus cried with a dying voice, bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Now seeing the pale body, the piteous mother gave true vent to her sadness, but on account of her great suffering, she spoke no more. Thus she sat frozen on a stone, and like a wilting flower, she dropped, bitterly oppressed.
O dear mother, o fount of love,
Afflicted you languish oppressed with sadness. I wish to languish with you, o pious virgin, with you to die, O Mary.
|Never weather-beaten sail more willing bent to shore,
Never tired pilgrim’s limbs affected slumber more,
Than my wearied sprite now longs to fly out of my troubled breast.
O come quickly, sweetest Lord, and take my soul to rest!Ever blooming are the joys of heaven’s high Paradise,
Cold age deafs not there our ears nor vapour dims our eyes:
Glory there the sun outshines; whose beams the blessed only see.
O come quickly, glorious Lord, and raise my sprite to Thee!Poem : Edmund Campion
|Now, now that the sun hath veil’d his light
And bid the world goodnight;
To the soft bed my body I dispose,
But where shall my soul repose?
Dear, dear God, even in Thy arms,
And can there be any so sweet security!
Then to thy rest, O my soul!
And singing, praise the mercy
That prolongs thy days.Hallelujah!Poem : William Fuller
Robin Jeffrey studied at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and the Royal College of Music. A versatile performer on instruments of the lute and guitar families, he has played and recorded with many of the well-known names in the early music field, including The Sixteen, English Baroque Soloists, The Purcell Quartet, Red Byrd, The Scholars, Concerto Vocale and the Accademia di San Petronio, Bologna. He has also played the lute and other historical instruments with ensembles such as the English Chamber Orchestra, The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Robin has a long track record in opera and stage music. He has played in many productions of Monteverdi, Purcell and Handel operas for English National Opera, Scottish Opera, Opera North, Glyndebourne and other companies. He has also performed extensively in productions for the National Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe.
Beside his work in Renaissance and Baroque music he is active in the performance of Middle Eastern classical and traditional music, playing the oud, laouto and tambour. He has performed and recorded traditional Jewish music internationally with the Burning Bush, with a special interest in the Sephardi traditions of the Middle East and the Balkans. He regularly accompanies his wife, the soprano Alessandra Testai, in a repertoire ranging from Shakespeare’s England and the Italian Renaissance to the classical music of the Ottoman Empire.
Robin’s playing has been heard and seen on many television and film soundtracks, including The Passion of the Christ, King Arthur and The Favourite. His career has taken him to the U.S.A. and Canada, Colombia, Brazil, Japan, Australia and most of the countries of Europe.
Richard Wistreich graduated in English Literature from King’s College, Cambridge, where he was also a member of its world-famous choir, cementing his life-long passion for both words and music. As a young professional singer in the 1970s and 1980s, he was fortunate to be part of the extraordinary energy and creativity of the historical performance revival in Europe, and sang with some of the seminal ensembles, notably the Consort of Musicke and the Taverner Consort. He also sang all over the world as a soloist in Baroque opera and oratorio, in recitals of sixteenth and seventeenth century song together with lutenists including Robin Jeffery, Nigel North and Elizabeth Kenny, and on innumerable commercial recordings. Equally committed to contemporary music, in 1989 Richard Wistreich formed the ensemble Red Byrd, together with John Potter. Besides making a series of ground-breaking recordings of music ranging from 12th century organum, through Purcell and Monteverdi, to newly commissioned works by contemporary composers, Red Byrd often performed old and new music side by side in the same concerts, aiming to employ abiding values of vocality learned from historical performance – flexibility of voice and clarity of expression – in order to present all kinds of sung text to listeners as directly as possible. The present recording of seventeenth-century solo song was made in 1987, at a time when most of the music performed was pretty well forgotten, and had to be recovered from manuscripts and early printed books. Since then, Richard Wistreich has continued with his scholarly research into the history of singing, and has added the roles of teacher and academic to that of singer. He has taught singers in many parts of the world, and published numerous books and articles on aspects of early modern vocal music. Richard Wistreich is currently Professor of Music and Director of Research at the Royal College of Music in London.
Music Web International – Review
These fifteen songs have been chosen to reflect the diversity of such material available to English singers in the 17th Century. Some are slightly risqué Latin ditties, some are religious, some are love songs. The best-known composers of the period are represented along with some much lesser known. Since all the songs are sung by the same singer and only the accompaniment changes there is a certain sameness for the listener, making continuous listening a poor choice. Each item needs to be savoured and the words followed to make the most of a meticulously planned sequence. One imagines, after reading the background, that such a long list of items would not have been covered in one musical soirée.
The singer Richard Wistreich makes clear in his interesting booklet essay that this recital attempts to reproduce the sort of song recital that might have been given in the houses of the gentry and aristocracy in the 17th century. His aim is not to deliver the music as a professional singer so much as an informed but amateur music-lover singing to a company of friends. As Director of Research at the Royal College of Music, specializing in the cultural history of musical performance, he is well placed to do so. This recording was made in London in 1987 when he was a busy professional singer. He is accompanied by Robin Jeffrey, Celia Harper and Erin Headly, all long-time experts in period performance. It is hard to imagine a better qualified group of musicians to make the case for this sort of domestic performance. So, how does it all sound? Wonderful actually. Apart from the absence of background chatter and the clink of glasses this sounds a very convincing portrayal of an evening in an upper-class home three-hundred years ago. The absolutely silent atmosphere of St Margaret’s Putney is superb for a very fine but very simple recording. It all sounds like a quartet of performers sitting between the speakers and playing to the listener. A privilege indeed.
Colin Attwell’s determination to keep the technology as pure as possible started many years ago and this analogue recording is the best possible even today. On the DVD Audio disc reviewed there is nothing to limit the sound of those outstanding thirty year old tapes. The notes are detailed and very informative and are accompanied by all the song texts with translations where necessary.