April 22, 2018

The Barclay Brass and St. Louis Choirs

Sights and Sounds from the Renaissance and Baroque Masters of Europe

The Performers

The Barclay Brass is an ensemble comprised of some of Washington DC's top musicians. Performers of the highest caliber, Barclay Brass members serve in military bands, perform in local orchestras, and freelance all over the country. From the Pope to the President, members of the Barclay Brass have performed for some of the highest profile officials and ceremonies.


The Composers and Their Music

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525 - 1594)

No composer of the 16th century was more consistent in following his own rules, and staying within the stylistic bounds he imposed on himself, than was Palestrina. Also, no composer of the 16th century has had such an edifice of myth and legend built around him. Much of the research on Palestrina was done in the 19th century by Giuseppe Baini, who published a monograph in 1828 which made Palestrina famous again, and reinforced the already existing legend that he was the "Saviour of Church Music" during the reforms of the Council of Trent. 

"Sicut cervus" · Voices of Ascension Chorus 

Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes aquarum,
ita desiderat anima mea ad te, Deus.

As a hart longs for the flowing streams,
so longs my soul for thee, O God.

William Byrd (1540 - 1623)

The Sixteen directed by Harry Christophers

Hail true Body, born of the Virgin Mary,
having truly suffered,
sacrificed on the cross for mankind:
from whose pierced side,
water and blood flowed.
Be for us a foretaste [of heaven’s banquet]
in the trial of death.
O sweet Jesus, O holy Jesus,
O Jesus, son of Mary,
have mercy on me. Amen.

William Byrd's involvement with Catholicism took on a new dimension in the 1580s. Following Pope Pius V's papal bull in 1570, which absolved Queen Elizabeth's subjects from allegiance to her and effectively made her an outlaw in the eyes of the Catholic Church, Catholicism became increasingly identified with sedition in the eyes of the Tudor authorities... 

Byrd's commitment to the Catholic cause found expression in his motets. While the texts of the motets included in the 1575 Cantiones have a High Anglican doctrinal tone, scholars have detected a profound change of direction in the texts which Byrd set in the motets of the 1580s. There is a persistent emphasis on themes such as the persecution of the chosen people, the Babylonian captivity, and the long-awaited coming of deliverance. This has led scholars to believe that Byrd was reinterpreting biblical and liturgical texts in a contemporary context and writing laments and petitions on behalf of the persecuted Catholic community. 

Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1557 - 1612)

The Barclay Brass plays Gabrieli's Sonata 19.

Italian composer Giovanni Gabrieli was born in Venice, studied in Munich, and became principal organist at St. Mark's Basilica, which had a long tradition of musical excellence. Gabrieli's work there made him one of the most noted composers of his day.  Composers from all over Europe, especially from Germany, came to Venice to study with Gabrieli. Evidently he encouraged his pupils to study the madrigals being written in Italy, so not only did they carry back the grand Venetian style to their home countries, but also the more intimate style of madrigals; Heinrich Schütz and others helped transport the transitional early Baroque music north to Germany, a trend that decisively affected subsequent music history. The productions of the German Baroque, culminating in the music of J.S. Bach, were founded on this strong tradition, which had its roots in Venice.

Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643)

Beatus Vir
The Sixteen, Harry Christophers conductor

Monteverdi worked extensively in the tradition of Renaissance polyphony, but undertook great developments in form and melody. No stranger to controversy, he defended his novel techniques as elements of a seconda pratica, contrasting with the earlier style which he termed the prima pratica. Largely forgotten during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, his works enjoyed a rediscovery at the beginning of the twentieth century. He is now established as a significant influence in musical history whose works are regularly performed and recorded.


Henry Purcell (c. 1659 - 1695)

The most important English composer of his time, Purcell composed music for the church, the stage, the court, and private entertainment. In all these branches of composition he showed an admiration for the past combined with a willingness to learn from his contemporaries in Italy. With alertness of mind went an individual inventiveness that marked him as the most original English composer of his time as well as one of the most original in Europe.


"March" from Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary
played by Baroque Brass of London