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WORKS: Missa O quam glorifica; Ave Dei patris filia; Sumwhat musyng; To complayne me, alas; That was my joy (anonymous)
PERFORMER: The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood
Having completed their excellent four-volume survey of Nicholas Ludford’s masses, The Cardinall’s Musick have turned their attention to Ludford’s greatest contemporary, Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521). This first volume of Fayrfax’s music features the mass, O quam glorifica, which the composer offered for his doctoral examination at Cambridge in 1504. Despite its academic origins, listeners will be struck by this complex work’s seductive mellifluousness and ingenious rhythmic diversity. The Cardinall’s Musick’s finely proportioned account highlights this music’s rich harmony and highly ornate melismas, expressing the emotion rather than the substance of the text. Try the hypnotic textural patterns of the Gloria and Credo, the sumptuous harmonies of the Sanctus, the spiritual purity of the two-part counterpoint between soprano and bass at the words ‘in nomine Domini’ in the Benedictus, or the inspirational quality of the Agnus Dei’s exultant final phrases.


Fayrfax’s majestic Ave dei patris filia is also particularly effective. Here, Cardinall’s Musick luxuriate in the composer’s vivid text setting, in which the score’s imaginatively varied vocal groupings culminate in strict imitation in all voices, emphasising the eternal purity of the Virgin Mary. Three soothingly melancholy love songs (two by Fayrfax and one by an anonymous contemporary) complete this rewarding, atmospherically recorded programme. Nicholas Rast