Nicholas Ludford, Vol.1
Reviewing some records of Sheppard last December, I expressed my doubts about his work and asked why people kept on recording Sheppard while the wonderful but slightly earlier Ludford was entirely ignored. Dreading shoals of letters from irate Sheppard fans, all I actually received was an apologetic note from one of the conductors concerned saying—'Well, actually, we are planning to do Ludford, but the Company thought it wiser if we started with something more established.'
Here it is, then. Not just a record of Ludford, but one with the confident sub-heading ''Volume 1''. So far as I can see, not a note of Ludford has previously appeared on records of any kind: there have been several broadcasts of his Mass Lapidaverunt over the years, but that seems to be all. And nobody can work out why Ludford has been ignored in this way. Would it be pushing the boat out too far to say that the music is sublime? I think not. He has a glorious sense of line and of textural variety: this is music that really soars into the vaults, the very quintessence of early Tudor polyphony. In many ways he is the purest of these composers, never faltering technically, always allowing each idea to run for just the right length of time before adding new material, able to build the most imposing musical designs without apparent fuss.
The six-voice Mass Videte miraculum recorded here is notable particularly for its two equal soprano lines, exchanging material, running in thirds, cavorting in close harmonies with the next voice down or spaced widely against a distant bass (this last admittedly a favourite gambit of the Eton Choirbook composers). But even to describe it in that way is to do scant credit to the beautifully gradated range of textures in the Credo or the extraordinary contrasts in the Agnus Dei. Perhaps all I am saying is that it is wonderfully exciting to hear this music at last—and, however, that I still cannot understand why it has not been recorded before.
I have already exceeded my allotted space. But it is necessary to add that Andrew Carwood and The Cardinall's Musick have done Ludford proud: the choir sounds excellent (is there no limit to the number of wonderful singers available for this kind of music?), all the details are nicely judged, and Carwood conducts with a clear eye to the grand forms. Roll on their next Ludford issue. But meanwhile: try to hear this one.'