GIBBONS: Choral and Organ Music

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Orlando Gibbons (1583 - 1625)

Choral and Organ Music
Orlando Gibbons was the most highly-regarded English musician of his generation. As the Dean of Westminster commented in 1624: \The organ was touched by the best finger of that age, Mr. Orlando Gibbons". Gibbons became organist of the Chapel Royal and, later, Westminster Abbey. His output was not great: church music, a set of madrigals, keyboard and consort music, and a few other works. The church music includes thirty-two anthems (including ten verse anthems where sections for solo voices with independent accompanist alternate with choral passages) and just two services.

Of the full anthems, O clap your hands - a setting of Psalm 47 - is a noble work demonstrating contrapuntal mastery in its eight-part writing with striking antiphonal effects. Hosanna to the son of David is a festive setting for Palm Sunday; with its light-textured opening (which is recapitulated) it compares closely with Byrd's Exalt thyself, O God. The impressively austere Out of the deep is a setting of Psalm 130 which one is reluctant wholeheartedly to ascribe to Gibbons on stylistic and other grounds. In Lift up your heads the composer responds vividly to words from Psalm 24. Almighty and everlasting God is an exquisitely fashioned miniature which takes its text from the Collect for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany while O Lord, in thy wrath captures the penitential mood of Psalm 6 with extended phrases and impressive contrasts of texture.

Turning to the verse anthems, Great Lord of Lords was written in 1617 (to the text Great King of Gods) for a visit to Scotland by King James I and ends with a sublime Amen. The text of the masterly, large-scale See, see, the word is incarnate traces Christ's birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. The opening head-motif (which occurs at two other points) creates unity and continuity. O God, the king of glory, a setting of the Collect for Ascension Day, includes some striking ideas, notably the remarkable tonal shift to depict Christ's ascension and the alternation of short solo and choir sections in the final bars.

In the evening canticles of the Second Service (a verse setting) the musical ideas are vivid with some colourful examples of word-painting and imaginative vocal scoring. The Short Service (in the full style) combines economy with imitative freedom making it ideally suited to liturgical needs.

Gibbons's keyboard music is marked by fluency, restraint, and contrapuntal mastery. The Prelude in G, published in Parthenia (1612-13), is nevertheless a brilliant piece requiring agile finger work. The Prelude in D minor appeared in Benjamin Cosyn's Virginal Book (c. 1620) and is in a concentrated imitative style. The Fantazia of four parts was also published in Parthenia; it is in seven clearly defined sections which are woven together to achieve a seamless and captivating work.

© 1995 Peter James

Oxford Camerata
The Oxford Camerata was formed in order to meet the growing demand for choral groups specializing in music from the Renaissance era. It has since expanded its repertoire to include music from the medieval period to the present day using instrumentalists where necessary. The Camerata has made a variety of recordings for Naxos spanning the music of nine centuries and in 1995 was awarded a European Cultural Prize.

Jeremy Summerly
Jeremy Summerly studied Music at New College, Oxford from where he graduated with First Class Honours in 1982. For the next seven years he worked for BBC Radio and it was during this time that he founded the Oxford Camerata and undertook postgraduate research at King's College, London. In 1989 he became a lecturer at the Royal Academy of Music and in the following year he was appointed conductor of Schola Cantorum of Oxford. In 1991 he signed a long-term contract with Naxos to record a variety of music with Schola Cantorum and the Oxford Camerata.

Laurence Cummings
Laurence Cummings was organ scholar at Christ Church, Oxford from where he graduated with First Class Honours in Music in 1989. He subsequently studied with Robert Woolley at the Royal College of Music where he won the prestigious intercollegiate Raymond Russell Prize and currently studies with Jill Severs. He is active as both solo harpsichordist and continuo player and has toured and broadcast extensively with The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra. In 1993 he embarked upon a series of recordings of harpsichord music for Naxos, beginning with the music of Louis and François Couperin.

Item number 8553130
Barcode 730099413022
Release date 01/01/2000
Category Renaissance
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Cummings, Laurence
Cummings, Laurence
Composers Gibbons, Orlando
Gibbons, Orlando
Conductors Summerly, Jeremy
Summerly, Jeremy
Orchestras Camerata, Oxford
Camerata, Oxford
Producers Lieber, Judy
Lieber, Judy
Disc: 1
O Lord, in thy wrath
1 O clap your hands
2 Great Lord of Lords
3 Hosanna to the son of David
4 Prelude in G major
5 Out of the deep
6 See, see, the word is incarnate
7 Prelude in D minor
8 Lift up your heads
9 Almighty and everlasting God
10 Magnificat (2nd Service)
11 Nunc dimittis (2nd Service)
12 Fantazia of four parts
13 Magnificat (Short Service)
14 Nunc dimittis (Short Service)
15 O God, the king of glory
16 O Lord, in thy wrath
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