A Musical Entente Cordiale

May 13, 2018

Renaissance and 20th-century music from England and France.

 

Listen to fine music written for the Catholic Church but which raised a few eyebrows when first written at All Saints Church, Kingston, on 9th June.

 

The Choir will perform Fauré’s Requiem, which was dismissed by the resident curé of Paris’s famous Church of the Madeleine, where Fauré was organist, as an unwanted novelty, and a Mass by William Byrd that could have landed its composer in gaol. 

 

William Byrd (c. 1540–1623) was the greatest figure among a dazzling array of highly gifted musicians of the English Renaissance. But his Mass for Four Voices, a melodious and unusually expressive example of Tudor music, was written specifically for illegal Catholic masses in the Protestant England of Elizabeth I and he could have been imprisoned as a recusant. It is a mark of Byrd’s brilliance that he won the admiration – and protection – of the Queen.

 

 

Gabriel Fauré was partly moved to write his Requiem because he found the funeral repertoire at the Madeleine not to be to his taste. “A combination of gently understated Gallic drama and heart-achingly beautiful melody,” is how conductor John Bate describes the work. A French music critic contemporary of the composer wrote: Fauré ‘works in quiet colours’... his work is ‘like a well-bred discourse.’ The comments apply equally to the composer’s Cantique de Jean Racine, written as a student when he was only 19. 

 

Since its major refit a few years ago, All Saints has become a concert venue known for its excellent acoustics, staging and atmosphere. One of England’s most distinguished organists will be making the most of the church’s magnificent organ, built by acclaimed Danish maker Frobenius, with organ pieces by Byrd and his younger contemporary Orlando Gibbons, and the famous French 20th-century blind organist Jean Langlais. Stephen Disley is sub-organist at Southwark Cathedral, as well as a recitalist and accompanist with leading British orchestras. 

 

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