Choral music is my first love. Even though my voice broke in 1994, I still return to the emotional landscapes of Byrd, Tallis, Gibbons, Howells and Britten as a sort of home base for all of the music I write. In this four-part series on Q2, we explore a few centuries of (mainly) English choral music, ignoring, as the genre itself suggests, the better part of the 18th and 19th centuries. This is by no means comprehensive, but is, rather, my own strange itinerary through the pieces I adore.
In this first show, we explore William Byrd, John Taverner and Thomas Tallis. The popular tune The Western Wind appears in various parody masses in the 16th century; this Taverner is a prime example of composers burying secular threads in sacred textures. We end with Gibbons’s two spectacularly theatrical verse anthems See, See the Word is Incarnate and This is the Record of John, as well as his Hosanna to the Son of David.
The call-and-response business in the verse anthems has delighted me for 20 years, and the imitative and playful Hosanna is a shining jewel in the canon. — Nico Muhly