(The) Marriage of England and Spain
One of the bonuses of royal weddings of the past was undoubtedly the bringing together of some of the finest musical institutions of the time. Richard Cheetham’s musical reconstruction of the marriage of Mary Tudor and Philip of Spain in 1554 is an imaginative attempt to re-create the meeting of the Castilian and English royal chapels on that auspicious occasion in Winchester Cathedral. The event was, according to contemporary descriptions, truly magnificent, the solemn nuptial Mass being presided over by no fewer than six bishops. We know that Philip travelled to England with 21 singers, two organists (including Antonio de Cabezon) and 11 minstrels as well as the usual corps of trumpets and drums; these musicians joined forces with those of the Chapel Royal and the cathedral. Unfortunately, although the music is mentioned in the accounts of the wedding, no specific pieces are identified, and the choices made for this recording, however logical, must remain hypothetical.
The selection of Taverner’s Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas makes sense in the light of the English tradition to celebrate royal weddings with a Mass for the Holy Trinity, and the pieces by Morales, Cabezon and Gombert accurately reflect the repertory of the Spanish chapel. The decisions as to performing forces and scorings are also hypothetical, but most are convincing. The addition of shawms and sackbuts to parts of Taverner’s Mass, for example, works well in the more sustained passages (as at the opening of the Credo) but, to my mind, less so where the writing is more florid or intricate (although many of these sections are taken by voices or voices and organ alone). The shawms and sackbuts undoubtedly participated in the proceedings, but did they really accompany the Mass? Aside from this historical reservation, I thoroughly enjoyed this mix of Sarum chant (superbly sung by Josep Cabre), English and Spanish polyphony (especially beguiling is the account of Morales’s Pater noster arranged for solo voice and minstrels) and mid-sixteenth century organ music and trumpet fanfares, which add an appropriately ceremonial touch.
The performances are of the high standard we have come to expect from the Orchestra of the Renaissance, and the recorded sound is excellent, with the single voices (royal weddings did not suffer the financial restraints of the modern recording industry) exceptionally well blended and sonorous. The organ (the instrument is unspecified) makes a fine noise, too, with Cabezon’s Variations on a French chanson making as striking a contribution in the context of this recording as they probably did to English ears in Winchester Cathedral. Highly recommended.'