Ottawa Bach Choir & Lisette Canton | 'Twas But Pure Love

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Classical: Choral Music Holiday: Spiritual Moods: Mood: Christmas
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'Twas But Pure Love

by Ottawa Bach Choir & Lisette Canton

A superb recording featuring music for Christmas from the Renaissance to the Contemporary periods, with two Canadian premieres by Kelly-Marie Murphy and Matthew Larkin. With harpist Caroline Léonardelli and organist Jonathan Oldengarm.
Genre: Classical: Choral Music
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Ave Maria
Ottawa Bach Choir & Lisette Canton
5:14 $0.99
2. O Magnum Mysterium
Ottawa Bach Choir & Lisette Canton
4:02 $0.99
3. Lullaby, My Sweet Little Baby
Ottawa Bach Choir & Lisette Canton
7:43 $0.99
4. Dixit Maria
Ottawa Bach Choir & Lisette Canton
4:14 $0.99
5. Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen
Ottawa Bach Choir & Lisette Canton
3:20 $0.99
6. Det är en Ros utsprungen
Ottawa Bach Choir, Lisette Canton, Kathleen Radke, Heather Lynn Smith, Jeffery Boyd & Andrew Day
3:49 $0.99
7. Noëls Anciens: Venez, Mes Enfants
Ottawa Bach Choir & Lisette Canton
1:41 $0.99
8. Jesous Ahatonhia, Noël Huron
Ottawa Bach Choir, Lisette Canton & Jean-Sébastien Kennedy
3:33 $0.99
9. Sailor's Carol
Ottawa Bach Choir, Lisette Canton, Caroline Léonardelli & Athena Babayan
4:57 $0.99
10. Lully, Lulla, Lullay
Ottawa Bach Choir, Lisette Canton & Kathleen Radke
4:25 $0.99
11. The Darkest Midnight in December
Ottawa Bach Choir, Lisette Canton, Caroline Léonardelli & Nicole Malcolm
5:55 $0.99
12. Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, BWV 230
Ottawa Bach Choir, Lisette Canton & Jonathan Oldengarm
6:18 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
In honour of the Ottawa Bach Choir’s 15th anniversary, the works on this CD celebrate some of the choir’s most beloved repertoire for Christmas from the Renaissance to the Contemporary periods, including two Canadian recording premieres. Various aspects of the Christmas story are highlighted by composers emanating from Italy, Spain, England, Germany, Sweden and Canada. It is our hope that the sounds and colours of this extraordinary choral repertoire, both ancient and modern, will engender a personal and collective expression of artistic and spiritual devotion that ultimately unites us all.

Palestrina’s name is derived from his probable place of birth in the hills just outside Rome. He held several positions in Rome, but most importantly as the Chapelmaster at the Papal Cappella Giulia. His compositional output is enormous and he is most known for his masses and motets. The Ave Maria for 5 voices, composed in 1575 and published in his third book of motets, bases each phrase as a point of imitation paraphrasing the Marian antiphon and keeping each line of text clearly audible. This sublime setting uses the alternative setting of the Ave Maria text, highlighting Mary as the sweet and merciful Queen of heaven (Sancta Maria, Regina coeli, dulcis et pia).

Victoria’s music represents the culmination of the Spanish Renaissance style. Born in Avila, he went to Rome early in his career where he may have studied with Palestrina. After holding several favourable musical positions, he became an ordained priest and finally returned to Spain in 1587, accepting the position of Chaplain at the convent of Las Descalzas Reales in Madrid, home and chapel of Philip II’s sister, the Dowager Empress Maria. O magnum mysterium is based on the Matins Responsory for Christmas Day and was published in Victoria’s first collection of motets in 1572. Originally subtitled, 'in circumcisione Domini,' it is one of the most beloved Renaissance Christmas motets ever written. Through a combination of imitative and homophonic sections, Victoria presents this serene text in a rich setting, concluding with a dance-like alleluia in a grand finale.

William Byrd, whose compositions reached the epitome of English Renaissance music, worked at Lincoln Cathedral and later became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. He composed in all genres (mass, motet, madrigal), in both English and Latin, though he increasingly embraced Catholicism throughout his life. One of his most beautiful madrigals, Lullaby, my sweet little Baby, published in 1588 in the collection, Psalmes, Sonets and Songs, is written for five voices a cappella, or (as originally intended) for solo voice and a consort of viols. It contains two parts, first as an intimate statement as Mary comforts the infant Jesus, and becoming more restless in the second part as the Holy Family escapes to Egypt to avoid the slaughter of all infant males ordered by King Herod. A veritable lament on O woe, and woeful heavy day brings the second part to a close, signaling a return to the melodic and harmonic tranquility of the opening.

German organist and composer, Hans Leo Hassler, incorporated elements of the late Renaissance and early Baroque in his compositions. He traveled to Italy in 1584 and studied with Andrea Gabrieli, learning the Venetian polychoral style, prior to returning to Germany at the end of 1585. Dixit Maria, one of his motets which appeared in his Cantiones sacrae of 1597, was composed for the Feast of the Annunciation. In the style of a canzona for four voices, its beautiful melody and counterpoint, alternating imitative and homophonic sections, clearly enhance the moving text from the gospel of Luke.

Michael Praetorius (née Schultheiss) was based in Wolfenbüttel, but spent two years in Dresden where he met Heinrich Schütz and became acquainted with Italian compositional techniques. He composed an enormous amount of sacred music that formed the backbone of Lutheran repertoire in northern Germany. The setting of the popular German carol, Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen, is one of the most beloved of all Baroque carols. The melody and words may have originated in the 15th- or early 16th-centuries as a Christmas or Twelfth Night folk carol. Praetorius’ sensitivity to the text in this 1609 harmonic setting is unsurpassed.

Swedish composer, Jan Sandström, is one of the most frequently performed of the contemporary Scandinavian composers. He is professor of composition at the University School of Music in Piteå, and his output includes a predominance of vocal and choral music as well as opera. His style is influenced by minimalism, overtone harmonies and Eastern philosophy.
The setting of Det är en ros utsprungen is one of his most beautiful and successful works. In it the original carol by Praetorius is sung by a quartet and surrounded by a haunting soundscape of harmonies hummed by a twelve-part choir.

Donald Patriquin is originally from Québec and was professor of music at McGill University from 1965-1996. He has composed in a number of genres, and his arrangements of the French Noëls anciens display a unique understanding of these spiritual songs of the Nativity. Popular during the early Baroque period, they depict the customs and events surrounding the Christmas story. The carols are based on pre-existent popular tunes, which appear in several works by various Baroque composers (Charpentier, Daquin, Delalande, etc.). Patriquin remains true to the flow of the texts and sets each carol in an imaginative, yet sensitive fashion. Venez, mes enfants is based on a popular Alsatian carol of the same title. Patriquin sets each verse imaginatively, alternating full choir, upper voices and lower voices.

Noël huron (The Huron Carol) is Canada’s oldest Christmas carol, written in 1643 by the Jesuit priest, Jean de Brébeuf. Originally written in Wendat (Jesous Ahatonhia), the native tongue of the Huron, its melody is based on the traditional French carol, Une jeune pucelle. In three verses, the Wendat is first presented in its original solo format followed by a choral arrangement by the Ottawa composer, Robert Anderson.

Matthew Larkin is an organist, choral director, composer and arranger, and is Organist and Director of Music at Ottawa’s Christ Church Cathedral, at which he oversees a choral program that includes one of Canada’s foremost liturgical choirs, the Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys. He has appeared with several leading orchestras, recorded on both Naxos and Sony labels, and composed choral and chamber music for sacred and secular settings. His Sailor’s Carol, written in 2015 and appearing here in its recording premiere, is based on the poem by the English writer Charles Causley. Composed in three sections, the first two present the poem in an a cappella setting punctuated by simple accompaniment. The final section presents the Latin chant, Ave maris stella, in a recurrent choral ostinato over which a beautiful soprano solo sings verses of the Marian Vesper hymn.

Philip Stopford is an English choral composer and choir director. He is Director of Music at Christ Church Bronxville, New York, and is known for his contemporary a cappella and accompanied settings of traditional Latin and English hymns. Lully, lulla, lullay was written for his chamber choir, Ecclesium, and includes a simple, yet lovely, setting of the traditional English carol based on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. A gorgeous refrain is presented before and after each of the three verses, with a soprano solo descant soaring over the final supplication.

Ottawa composer Kelly-Marie Murphy has written works for instrumental and choral ensembles, as well as for solo instruments. Her music has been performed and broadcast around the world, and featured in several prestigious concert halls. Dr. Murphy has studied in Canada and England and won several awards, completing numerous short residencies as composer with notable Canadian institutions. The Darkest Midnight in December is based on a 1728 text by the Irish priest, Fr. William Devereux, and was commissioned in 2005 by the Toronto Children’s Chorus. For harp and women’s voices (SSAA), it presents the beautiful poem with additional alleluias completing each verse, first subdued and building to a jubilant finish. The virtuosic harp part is complex, underscoring the imitative and chordal writing above.

The pinnacle of the German Baroque motet, and indeed the entire motet genre, is found in the motets of Johann Sebastian Bach. His scoring, texts, formal construction and textures derive from the German Baroque motet tradition along with a refined and eloquent contrapuntal language. Bach’s motet, Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, BWV 230, is based on the first two verses of Psalm 117 and is one of his brilliant examples in this genre. Written for four voices, most likely before he arrived in Leipzig in 1723, it includes three sections—the first is a double fugue structure in which Bach displays masterful counterpoint by presenting two subjects, first one at a time and then in combination with each other. The chorale-like middle section takes us through various depictions of grace (Gnade) and truth (Wahrheit), culminating in the final section’s dazzling display of celebratory alleluias.

© 2016 Lisette Canton



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