The Music of Nicholas Ludford, Volume 4
It hardly seems possible that we already have the fourth and final instalment of the Ludford series from The Cardinall's Musick under Andrew Carwood on ASV Gaudeamus (previous issues were reviewed in 7/93, 12/93 and 7/94). The whole project has been so smoothly and efficiently realized by all concerned—and the result is so very fine—that praise must be heaped on all concerned. As David Skinner points out in his insert-notes, the four recordings have not embraced the complete works attributed to Nicholas Ludford, but they have given us an unprecedented view of a large part of the compositional output of this excellent composer.
This latest disc has as its centrepiece the Missa Lapidaverunt Stephanum, a work firmly in the English tradition as represented by the Eton Choirbook. Meandering duets and trios are contrasted with more declamatory tutti sections (particularly, as one would expect, in the more wordy movements of the Ordinary of the Mass) and The Cardinall's Musick emphasize these contrasts of sonority with appropriately distinctive approaches, at times more contemplative, at others more forceful and declamatory. The Mass which boasts a magical setting of the Agnus dei, is as on the other Ludford discs, embedded in chant this time the Propers for the Feast of St Stephen. The chant takes up rather less than a quarter of the playing time and again The Cardinall's Musick respond to the different texts with conviction. I am more and more convinced that this integration of chant and polyphony more or less according to the original liturgical context is the way to appreciate music of this period. The insert-notes provide welcome information on the sources for both plainsong and polyphony, though I can't find details of the fine illustrations that adorn the booklet.
This series, already noted for its high standards of performance and scholarship, has succeeded brilliantly in bringing back to life the inspirational sacred polyphony of early sixteenth-century England. Skinner's editions are available at a very reasonable price so that these marvellous pieces can again take up their rightful place in the choral tradition of this country.'