What is our Life?-Renaissance Laments and Elegies
This recording presents a selection of renaissance lamentations – a frequent theme in an age when premature mortality was far more common than it is today. Most of these pieces commemorate actual deaths: Weelkes, Ramsey and Tomkins mourn the death of James I’s eldest son Henry in 1612, and Pierre de la Rue probably marks that of Philip the Fair in 1506. King David’s laments for Saul, Jonathan and Absalon provided the composers with their texts, and with an edifying biblical precedent. All this may sound like a blueprint for a rather lugubrious hour’s music, but the different national styles provide much variety. Chromaticism, that mainstay of plangent music, rears its head most prominently in the English pieces. The Franco-Flemish equivalent is the recourse to the Phrygian mode in Josquin’s Nymphes des bois or La Rue’s Doleo super te.