sábado, 10 de noviembre de 2012

The Choir Project al día [10-XI-2012]

Thomas Ashewell [c.1478-c.1513]: Missa Ave Maria.
Huelgas Ensemble - Paul Van Nevel.
English splendid isolation.

    Paul Ven Nevel writes:
"Thomas Ashewell is something of an odd man out in this company. He is nonetheless an eminent illustration of the 'splendid isolation' English polyphony maintained from polyphonic trends on the continent. Although he belongs to the generation immediately preceding that of Palestrina and Lassus, comparisons between them are fascinating. Born around 1478 and dying a some time after 1513, Ashewell is in fact a precursor of the other two composers. He is mentioned for the first time as one of the clerici conducticii at Tattershall College in Lincolnshire in 1502 and again in 1503. He later became “informator choristarum” at Lincoln Cathedral. By 1513 he was cantor at Durham Cathedral, where his versatility is shown by the fact that he taught plainchant, polyphony, faburden, discant, organ and 'countre' [the improvisation of a melody over an existing melodic line]. Only two complete works by Ashewell are extant, one of which is the Missa Ave Maria for six voices.

    Although this mass, like Palestrina's, is founded on a cantus firmus, the technical resources used here belong to a completely different universe. The diversity and rhythmic complexity of Ashewell's work present a complete contrast to Palestrina's
meditative counterpoint. The typically English 'flamboyant Gothic' aspect of the contrapuntal texture around the Gregorian Ave Maria melody reaches a degree
of complexity, equally manifest in the handling of false relations [when the same note appears in two voices, but with a different accidental, e.g. G sharp against G natural], that was unknown on the continent even a generation later. The refinement of craftsmanship is evident right from the introductory section of each movement of the mass [Ashewell did not set the Kyrie], where the head-motif of the theme [F-C-D-D-A-B flat-A] is inventively 'glossed' in a different way each time.

    The rhythmic and contrapuntai peculiarities of early sixteenth-century England thus round out a multifaceted picture of Renaissance Europe: Lassus, or polyphony on a human scale; Palestrina, or fragile transcendence; Ashewell, or the virtuosity of unceasing melodic ornamentation."

    In my opinion, this is a fantastic example of "English splendid isolation" before Thomas Tallis and William Byrd.
The performance is absolutely wonderful. All the lines are really fantastic, but specially the male voices, with these amazing tenors [Nick Todd is for me the best english tenor in ensemble] and the fantastic lower basses, make the particular "Huelgas sound".
An indispensable album, wich is an ideal place to compare and contrast the three major styles of the Renaissance: the strict classical counterpoint of the Roman school and the path of transcendence [Palestrina], the ripe fruit of the Franco-Flemish style and the cpounterpoint on a human scale [Lassus], flamboyant English late Gothic and the irresistible appeal of virtuoso ornamentation [Ashewell].

No hay comentarios: