The Spy's Choirbook

Author: 
David Fallows
CCLCD 712. The Spy's ChoirbookThe Spy's Choirbook

The Spy's Choirbook

  • Celeste beneficium
  • Adiutorium nostrum
  • Nesciens mater
  • Ave regina caelorum
  • Descendi in hortum meum
  • Sancta trinitas unus Deus
  • Vexilla regis
  • Fama, malum
  • Doleo super te
  • Domine Jesu Christe
  • Maxsimilla Christo amabilis
  • Sancta Maria succurre miseris/O werder mondt
  • Sancta et immaculata virginitas
  • Missus est Gabriel angelus
  • Dulcissima virgo Maria
  • Tota pulcra es amica mea
  • Sancta Maria virgo
  • Verbum bonum et suave
  • Recordamini quomondo praedixit filium
  • O beatissime Domine Iesu Christe/Fac me de tua gratia ut
  • Ave sanctissima Maria
  • Ecce Maria genuit nobis
  • Congratulamini mihi omnes
  • Egregie Christi martir Christophore
  • Alma redemptoris mater
  • Dulces exuviae
  • Dulces exuviae
  • Dulces exuviae
  • Dulces exuviae
  • Dulces exuviae dum fata deusque
  • Absalon fili mi
  • Iesus autem transiens
  • Anima mea liquefacta est Invenerunt me/Filiae Ierusalem
  • Tribulatio et angustia invenerunt me

Almost 50 choirbooks now survive from the copying workshop of Petrus Alamire, who happens to have been active as a political informer alongside his more upfront activities as a singer, composer and music copyist. The lovely choirbook in the British Library has Henry VIII’s coat of arms on the first motet, and David Skinner here proposes that it was a personal gift from Alamire to the king in about 1516 – though nobody has yet convincingly contradicted Honey Meconi’s carefully argued proposal (1998) that it was a diplomatic gift from Margaret of Austria at the end of Henry VIII’s French campaign of June to October 1513.

Either way, what we have here is a complete recording of the entire choirbook in its manuscript order: 34 four-voice motets from the first decade of the century by French and Franco-Flemish composers, giving a magnificent panorama of the repertory. Most of them have never been recorded before.

Most of the music is performed by the mixed voices alone, a small group sounding gorgeous throughout. For a few particularly grand motets they are joined by the wind players, who perform alone in five of the pieces. But perhaps the main thrill is the sequence of five settings of Dido’s last speech from the Aeneid, Dulces exuvie, by La Rue (possibly), Agricola, Josquin, Mouton and Ghiselin, then immediately followed by one of the most haunting motets of all time, Absalon fili mi, ascribed elsewhere to Josquin but now widely believed to be by Pierre de la Rue.

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© MA Business and Leisure Ltd. 2017