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In the Midst of Life: Music from the Baldwin Partbooks, Vol. 1 - choral works by Byrd, Tallis, Taverner, Sheppard / Contrapunctus

Album Summary

>Byrd, William : Cantiones sacrae, Book 2
>Parsons, Robert : Libera me, Domine, for chorus
>Byrd, William : Audivi vocem, motet for 5 voices (SAATB)
>Mundy, William : Sive Vigilem, for 5 voices
>Parsons, Robert : Peccantem me quotidie, for chorus
>Taverner, John [Composer] : Quemadmodum, for 6 parts, perhaps for viols
>Tallis, Thomas : Magnificat & Numc dimittis
>Gerarde, Derick : Sive vigilem, motet
>Parsons, Robert : Credo quod Redemptor
>Sheppard, John : Media vita
Conductor Ensemble Composers

Notes & Reviews:

Sunday Times, 22nd February 2015
Rees's choir brings an intensity of sound and dramatic dynamics, in music that contemplates the pain of death in ecstatic elation and sublime devotion.

Early Music Review, 20th February 2015
The singing throughout is consistently full-toned and focussed, but essentially for this repertoire constantly ready with expressive crescendos and decrescendos to mark textual changes in mood. With its nine highly experienced singers (boosted to ten for the larger works) Contrapunctus is the ideal group for this superb repertoire, and I look forward with eager anticipation to future CDs in this series.

The Observer, 29th March 2015
Borrowing its title from the openings of the Nunc dimittis, the subject here is mortality and fear of the Day of Judgment. Rees's accompanying notes tell a fascinating story of the survival of these partbooks. Whether you listen in Lenten penitence or in general hope of spiritual balm, the message is universal, the singing superb.

Following its nomination for a Gramophone Early Music Award in 2014, Contrapunctus now releases an album of motets from the Baldwin Tudor partbooks on the theme of mortality. Conducted by Owen Rees, the album includes Sheppard's epic Media vita and works by Byrd, Parsons, Mundy, Taverner, Gerarde and Tallis, with Contrapunctus's own reconstructions of the missing tenor parts. Founded in 2010 and directed by Owen Rees, Contrapunctus draws its repertoire from England, the Low Countries, Spain, Portugal and Germany, particularly in the 16th -17th c.

CD Review, 18th April 2015
Contrapunctus has chosen quite a low pitch and that enhances the richness, and you'll hear the distinct vocal personalities in the group...as well as the slow, steady sense of pulse which we enjoyed, and the intriguing ambivalence between awe and fear, the vulnerability of the human condition.

Gramophone Magazine, May 2015
Contrapunctus are special...These are understated performances whose moment-to-moment drama is less striking than the long, aching arcs they achieve over five or six minutes - director Owen Rees shows his experience here, making a case for a conductor in a climate in which musical democracy is increasingly king.

Choir & Organ, May 2015
There's lovely balance and clarity of sound from as fine a clutch of voices...as one might wish.

BBC Music Magazine, August 2015
Contrapunctus really knows what to do with these pieces and from the very first item...the tuning is superb and the ensemble rock solid. Moreover, Owen Rees's interpretations are revelatory and even visionary...The next volume is keenly awaited.

American Record Guide, July/August 2015
Owen Rees is director of music at The Queen's College, Oxford. The vocal ensemble Contrapunctus was founded in 2010 particularly for the study and performance of polyphony from England, the Low Countries, Spain, Portugal, and Germany. They are the vocal consort in residence at Oxford University, where they are engaged in work on various Tudor partbooks, including Baldwin's collection. The performances here could be described as vocal chamber music, mainly one voice to a part. Their sound is refined and clear, even pungent. Ensemble and intonation are excellent. On the whole this is a first rate English early music sound. I recently reviewed an earlier recording of theirs with the title "Libera Nos - The Cry of the Oppressed" (Signum 338; Jan/Feb 2014, p 229), a program of English and Portuguese composers of the 16th Century. I remarked then on their strong sense of forward-moving phrases, a quality that is found here also.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Church of St Michael & All Angels, Oxford (01/18/2014-01/20/2014).



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Works Details

>Byrd, William : Cantiones sacrae, Book 2
  • Conductor: Owen Rees
  • Ensemble: Contrapunctus
  • Notes: Church of St Michael & All Angels, Oxford (01/18/2014-01/20/2014)
  • Running Time: 5 min. 3 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance
  • Form: Choral

>Parsons, Robert : Libera me, Domine, for chorus
  • Conductor: Owen Rees
  • Ensemble: Contrapunctus
  • Notes: Church of St Michael & All Angels, Oxford (01/18/2014-01/20/2014)
  • Running Time: 7 min. 28 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance

>Byrd, William : Audivi vocem, motet for 5 voices (SAATB)
  • Conductor: Owen Rees
  • Ensemble: Contrapunctus
  • Notes: Church of St Michael & All Angels, Oxford (01/18/2014-01/20/2014)
  • Running Time: 4 min. 14 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance
  • Form: Choral

>Mundy, William : Sive Vigilem, for 5 voices
  • Conductor: Owen Rees
  • Ensemble: Contrapunctus
  • Notes: Church of St Michael & All Angels, Oxford (01/18/2014-01/20/2014)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 30 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance

>Parsons, Robert : Peccantem me quotidie, for chorus
  • Conductor: Owen Rees
  • Ensemble: Contrapunctus
  • Notes: Church of St Michael & All Angels, Oxford (01/18/2014-01/20/2014)
  • Running Time: 6 min. 7 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance

>Taverner, John [Composer] : Quemadmodum, for 6 parts, perhaps for viols
  • Conductor: Owen Rees
  • Ensemble: Contrapunctus
  • Notes: Church of St Michael & All Angels, Oxford (01/18/2014-01/20/2014)
  • Running Time: 6 min. 30 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance

>Tallis, Thomas : Magnificat & Numc dimittis :: Nunc dimittis
  • Conductor: Owen Rees
  • Ensemble: Contrapunctus
  • Notes: Church of St Michael & All Angels, Oxford (01/18/2014-01/20/2014)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 13 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance
  • Form: Choral

>Gerarde, Derick : Sive vigilem, motet
  • Conductor: Owen Rees
  • Ensemble: Contrapunctus
  • Notes: Church of St Michael & All Angels, Oxford (01/18/2014-01/20/2014)
  • Running Time: 6 min. 13 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance

>Parsons, Robert : Credo quod Redemptor
  • Conductor: Owen Rees
  • Ensemble: Contrapunctus
  • Notes: Church of St Michael & All Angels, Oxford (01/18/2014-01/20/2014)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 43 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance

>Sheppard, John : Media vita
  • Conductor: Owen Rees
  • Ensemble: Contrapunctus
  • Notes: Church of St Michael & All Angels, Oxford (01/18/2014-01/20/2014)
  • Running Time: 23 min. 9 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1553-1558