Harmonia Early Music

Holidays with Anonymous 4, Stile Antico, and Montserrat Figueras

Anonymous 4 explores medieval English carol and early American Christmas song, Stile Antico serves up Tudor music, and Monserrat Figueras with Hesperion XXI.

Play Episode (Real Audio)
four women and skyline

Photo: Courtesy of the Ensemble

Anonymous 4.

Anonymous 4 and the Cherry Tree

Aptly titled “The Cherry Tree,” the most recent recording in Anonymous 4’s distinguished series of releases is dedicated to medieval English carols as well as Christmas songs and ballads from early America. The program is inspired by the 15th-century ballad “The Cherry Tree Carol,” which can be found within the traditions of the British Isles and the United States.

The recording also features William Knapp’s carol “A virgin unspotted.” The words of the first verse give us a taste:

A virgin unspotted the prophets foretold,
Should bring forth a Savior which now we behold;
To be our Redeemer from death, hell and sin;
Which Adam’s transgression involved us in sin.

William Knapp: Carol “A Virgin unspotted”
Anonymous 4 — The Cherry Tree (Harmonia Mundi, 2010)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

Stile Antico and Puer natus est

The young British vocal ensemble Stile Antico continues their exploration of the English Renaissance on the Harmonia Mundi label. One of the ensemble’s more recent recordings focuses on Tudor music for Advent and Christmas. The centerpiece of the program is Thomas Tallis’ Missa Puer natus est, or Christmas Mass.

Sprinkled throughout the recording are motets by some of Tallis’ contemporaries, including William Byrd, John Sheppard, Robert White, and John Taverner.

William Byrd: “Rorate caeli desuper” and “Tollite Portas”
Stile Antico — Puer natus est: Tudor Music for Advent and Christmas (Harmonia Mundi, 2010)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

Not much is known about the circumstances surrounding the composition and first performance of Thomas Tallis’ Christmas Mass Missa puer natus est. It is an exceptional work, no doubt, even though it remains incomplete.

The mass is based on the plainchant Puer natus est, “a child is born,” which is an introit—or opening—for Christmas Day Mass. Tallis’ setting is powerful and exuberant.

Thomas Tallis: “Gloria” - Missa Puer Natus Est
Stile Antico — Puer natus est: Tudor Music for Advent and Christmas (Harmonia Mundi, 2010)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

Montserrat Figueras

Our featured artist is soprano Montserrat Figueras, founding member of Hesperion XXI and wife of Jordi Savall. Over the years she has taken part, either as soloist or ensemble member, in many recordings on the Alia Vox label.

One of the more memorable was the recording Figueras devoted to Lullabies, or cradle songs. Entitled “Ninna Nanna,” the CD consisted of pieces of taken from Eastern and Western traditions, ancient and modern.

Within the program was a 17th-century Italian spiritual cradle song by Tarquinio Merula who brought together the story of the birth of Christ with that of the Passion. The words are set over a two-note bass line which mimics the slow rocking of a cradle.

Tarquinio Merula : Canzonetta Spirituale Sopra La Nanna “Hor ch'è tempo di dormire”
Montserrat Figueras and Hespèrion XXI/Jordi Savall — Ninna Nanna: Lullabies (Alia Vox , 2003)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

William Knapp: Carol “A Virgin unspotted”
Anonymous 4 — The Cherry Tree (Harmonia Mundi, 2010)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Anonymous: Prosa “Prophetarum presignata,” Carol “Nowel syng we bothe al and som,” and Carol “Marvele noght Iosep”
Anonymous 4 — The Cherry Tree (Harmonia Mundi, 2010)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
William Byrd: “Rorate caeli desuper” and “Tollite Portas”
Stile Antico — Puer natus est: Tudor Music for Advent and Christmas (Harmonia Mundi, 2010)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Thomas Tallis: “Gloria” - Missa Puer Natus Est
Stile Antico — Puer natus est: Tudor Music for Advent and Christmas (Harmonia Mundi, 2010)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Tarquinio Merula : Canzonetta Spirituale Sopra La Nanna “Hor ch'è tempo di dormire”
Montserrat Figueras and Hespèrion XXI/Jordi Savall — Ninna Nanna: Lullabies (Alia Vox , 2003)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Joan Cererols: Villancico a 8: “Serafín que con dulce”
Montserrat Figueras and Hespèrion XXI/Jordi Savall — Villancicos y Danzas Criollas (Alia Vox , 2004)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

View all posts by this author »

  • Alan Burdick

    I heard this program (I think it was this program!) earlier today on KHPR Honolulu. Anyway it was the program with the time capsule for 1551, focusing on the Spanish colonies in the Americas. One of the first pieces, however, was a fantastic realization of, I believe, Tieman Susato's dances, with plenty of timpani. I see no reference to it on this post. Can you help me with the precise identification of the piece and the recording?

    Thank you very much! I love Harmonia!

    Alan Burdick
    Honolulu

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Harmonia Early Music:

More Subscription Options

Follow Us

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Harmonia Early Music

About The Hosts

Search Harmonia Early Music

where to hear harmonia