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Cat. No. CHAN 0709 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 0709 - Music at the Court of Henry VIII
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Available From: 09 August 2004
When Henry VIII was crowned king in 1509, aged seventeen, he was the youngest king in Europe. He spent the first decade of his reign predominantly on chivalrous self-display. This was his most productive period as a composer. Pastyme with good companye gives an illustration of Henry’s efforts to fashion himself as a young king. The first two strophes celebrate stylised courtly amusements such as hunting, singing and dancing for the diversion of aristocratic youth. Only in the third strophe is there talk of the attempt to seek virtue and avoid sin. This song is Henry’s only composition to become known beyond his private domain during his lifetime; it is furthermore the oldest and most frequently preserved song from the early Tudor period.

Only a fraction of the musical repertoire from Henry VIII’s reign survives. The most important source of information about the state of secular composition in sixteenth-century England, ‘Henry VIII’s Manuscript’, is now preserved in the British Library. In spite of the title it was not written by the king himself but rather compiled and recorded by someone else at a later time. The manuscript contains 109 pieces, including thirty-three of the thirty-four compositions that are known to be definitely the king’s. In addition, there are fifteen anonymous works, some of which may also be Henry’s, as well as pieces by Dutch, French and English composers. William Cornysh, who is represented on this CD by four song arrangements, was active as a poet, composer, playwright and actor at Henry’s court. Eleven pieces in all by Cornysh have been transmitted to us through Henry VIII’s Manuscript. As an English composer he therefore occupies a special position in this collection which, with the exception of the king’s own pieces, predominantly contains Franco-Flemish music.
Reviews

'I did not expect to enjoy this disc so much. However, I have found myself returning to it again and again.'
International Record Review

'If you want a programme of music from the lightest of the MSS connected with Henry VIII (BL Add 31922 - Musica Britannica 18) on three recorders with some percussion, this is well-played and has the advantage of an excellent booklet note.'
Early Music Review

'Listeners will recognise that old favourite Greensleeves and will admire the extraordinary dexterity of the players in Blow thi horne hunter. For sheer virtuosity and quite remarkable transparency Attaigngnant's Touridoion is unbeatable.'
Gramophone

'This performance brilliantly captures the youthful passion of a remarkably musical monarch.'
BBC Music Magazine

 

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