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Glorious Textures

Sacred vocal music
by Robert Parsons,
reviewed by

Naxos    8.570451

Robert Parsons: First Great Service - Voces Cantabiles / Barnaby Smith. © 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd

Robert Parson was an illusive character, born around 1530 in the Midlands and died in January 1570 the victim of a drowning accident as the river Trent flooded near Newark. His music, some wrongly attributed over the years to William Byrd on whom he may have had considerable influence (though his connection with Lincoln is impossible to prove now), is characterised by rhythmic vitality and harmonic richness, relishing the passing dissonances and suspensions that are exciting in the work of those who can manage them well -- and Parsons could.

The First Great Service is set for two antiphonal choirs and highlights the musical crossroads at which Parsons worked -- the old Catholic tradition and the new Protestant liturgy which became the revolutionary setting of English texts. Here is a fine performance, only unsatisfactorily demonstrated by these short extracts, but they must suffice. One is the Libera me, Domine from his Latin Service Responses for the Dead.

Listen -- Libera me, Domine (Responds for the Dead) (track 6, 5:58-6:39)
© 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd

Another is the setting of Ave Maria which is a work of considerable beauty.

Listen -- Ave Maria (track 11, 0:00-1:25)
© 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd

The singing is excellent and the sound quality sympathetic to the glorious textures.

Copyright © 12 April 2008 Patric Standford, Wakefield UK


Parsons: First Great Service; Responds for the Dead

8.570451 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 69'44" 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd

Voces Cantabiles; Barnaby Smith, director

Robert Parsons (c1530-1572): Magnificat; Venite (First Great Service); Te Deum (First Great Service); Peccantem me, quotidie (Responds for the Dead); Benedictus (First Great Service); Libera me, Domine (Responds for the Dead); Creed (First Great Service); Credo quod redemptor (Responds for the Dead); Magnificat (First Great Service); Nunc dimittis (First Great Service); Ave Maria


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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular series of shorter CD reviews