Celebrating the Quincentenary of Robert Fayrfax
There are many things to celebrate around thsi disc, not least the first recordings of Ave Lumen Gracie (from the Eton Choirbook, c 1505) and Sponsus amat sponsam credo (composed c. 1509 for the wedding of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon).
Robert Fayrfax (1484-1521) was, we know a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1497, and remained in royal service until his death in October 1521. While we know nothing about his life until arrival at the Chapel Royal, we do know much of the later period though, in terms of the heaps of honours bestowed upon him.Gayrfax found special favour with the Royals.
Here is a fine YouTube video explaining the basis behind the recording, with some lovely excerpts:
The disc begins with the Missa Regale, based on the Marian psalm antophon Regali ex progenie. The booklet notes give a detailed explanatio fo how this performance was "created" using a "squate" for Tone VIII; possibly we could just sit back and enjoy the piece's magnificence. Here's the second half of the Gloria in a live performance by this ensemble:
There is such spirit to these performances. Try Sumewhat musying from the Spotify list below, or the sheer linear exuberance of Ave lumen gratiae; or the almost modernist (!) That was my woo. There is also the beauty of the Salve Regina (and how Ensemble Pro Victoria relish the beauty of the some of the chordal sequences!).
Including all seven of Fayrfax's surviving courtly songs (heard on a single disc for the first time), this disc bodes well: this is a new signing for Delphian Records and, with its fusion of intimate performance and scholarly direction, teh Fayrfax disc bodes well ...
The dics concludes with Maria plena virtute, which contains the most remarkable duet for soprano and tenor alone.
I can't recommend Magnus Williamson's booklet notes enough. Professor of Early Music at Newcastle University, Williamson leads the reader through the background to this music, its construction and its context brilliantly, the perfect adjunct to these brilliantly focused performances from Ensemble Pro Victori, caught in the lovely acoustic of St Brandon's Church, Brancepeth, County Durham.