Wednesday, 29 September, 2021 at 11:00 am
Martin Randall Travel
Chapel of The Queen’s College, Oxford, United Kingdom
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Gérard Pangon, Musikzen (3 March, 2010)
Six marriages, two wives beheaded, a break with the Pope, a voracious nature… Henry VIII was a man of every excess. And yet during that time, as if to compensate for the excesses of this Bluebeard, English music produced works that called for penance and meditation. From the first half of the English 16th century, we know above all the three Ts, Taverner, Tye and Tallis, who composed for Anglicans and Catholics alike with the same fervour and intensity. Here, then, is John Sheppard, who died in 1558, less well-known because his works have survived only as fragments and in manuscript form, but equally exciting, especially when interpreted as sublimely as by the ensemble Stile Antico. The lines follow each other, intersect, intertwine, and finally unite with infinite grace; the swirling of the hymns give birth to a sense of eternity, and the harmonies seem to touch the absolute. To listen to the purity and beauty of the voices of this young English choir, no-one could believe that man could be evil – not even if he were called Henry VIII.