Madame d’Amours: Music for Henry VIII’s Six Wives

£12.00

Signum Classics is proud to present Musica Antiqua’s seventh disc – Madame d;Amours; Songs, dances and consort music for the six wives of Henry VIII

Henry VIII is the most instantly recognisable of English kings: the heavy, square face with its fringe of beard, the massive torso, arms akimbo, feet planted firmly on the ground. His character, too, is familiar: ‘Bluff King Hal’, gorging himself at the table, flagrantly promiscuous, cynically manipulating the Church to suit his marital aims, the very archetype of chauvinism.

But scholarship reveals a very different Henry. Larger than life, certainly (six feet two inches tall, a colossal height for the time); but, as a young man, clean-shaven and with a halo of red hair, his waist was a mere 35 inches and his chest 42 inches. His table manners were refined to the point of being finicky, and the conduct of his sexual liaisons was (according to the French ambassador) almost excessively discreet.

An irresistible figure to the twentieth century early–music revival, Henry is shown by numerous hyperbolic contemporary accounts to have been an expert singer (with a clear tenor voice and able to sing at sight); a player of lute, flute, recorder, cornett and virginals; and a composer of sacred and secular music. Inventories made at the time of his death show him as an avid collector of instruments (including recorders, flutes, cornetts, viols and bagpipes). And two musical sources, one sacred (The Eton Choirbook), the other secular (The Henry VIII Ms), proved rich in music as dramatic, colourful and exotic as the king himself.

But there is more to Henry’s music than ‘Pastime with Good Company’ and the splendours of Eton’s polyphony. Henry inherited a modest musical establishment from his father, but bequeathed a large ‘Kynge’s Musicke’ to his heirs.

Henry’s queens were no mere observers of the development of music at his court. Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn both owned song–books which show a strong Franco–Flemish presence in Tudor music; Anne of Cleves augmented her small band of minstrels by borrowing players from Prince Edward’s household; improper relationships with musicians were cited in the cases against both executed queens; Jane Seymour’s royal wedding was celebrated with shawms and sackbuts; and Catherine Parr danced to her own consort of viols. In chapel and chamber, whether dancing, worshipping, singing, playing or listening, music was an important counterpoint to the lives (and sometimes deaths) of all of Henry’s six wives.

This disc does not set out to offer a comprehensive survey of music under Henry and his queens: rather it is a subjective selection of music from many contemporary sources inspired by, and, we hope, illustrative of six extraordinary lives.

SKU: SIGCD044

What people are saying

"everything sung and played to perfection"

Early Music Scotland

  "This delightful anthology brings together music reflecting many aspects of the lives of Henry and his wives: the collection looks at the musical interests sand associations of Henry’s queens in turn, sharing with us a rich tapestry of music spanning the 38 years of the king’s long reign." 

The Consort – Vol 62

    "Madame D’Amours can seduce, but not with words. Aided by scholarship, this disc re-imagines the music presence of each queen at the court of Henry VIII. Musica Antiqua of London’s command of diverse repertoires, instruments and interpretive approaches allows it to flaunt differences between the music of Henry’s various consorts. Humour, cerebral sophistication and tenderness each find their proper expression in the knitting together of counterpoint and in the delicate rhythmic shading by the players. Particularly pleasing in the robust tone and freedom of line of Jacob Heringman’s lute solos"

BBC Music Magazine

     "Listen to this disc and you will be treated to a Tudor banquet of music and song. Jennie Cassidy’s pure mezzo-soprano voice is a joy, while Philip Thorby’s Musica Antiqua of London provides superbly enthusiastic accompaniements. It’s worth taking time to read the comprehensive booklet notes, which explain the important part music played in the lives of Henry’s wives. A well thought-out and presented project."

Classic FM Magazine

Musica Antiqua
Philip Thorby

Release date:1st Jan 2005
Order code:SIGCD044
Barcode: 635212004425

  1. I Catherine of Aragon: – Danza Alta – Francisco de la Torre – [2.09]
  2. – Whilles Lyfe or Breth – William Cornyshe – [7.26]
  3. – My Lady Wynkefylds Rownde – anon – [1.33]
  4. – Nigra sum – Matthieu de Gascongne – [4.59]
  5. – Adew le companye – anon – [1.09]
  6. II Anne Boleyn: – Blow thi horne – William Cornyshe – [2.23]
  7. – My Lady Carey’s dompe – anon – [2.21]
  8. – Adiutorium nostrum – Antoine de Fevin – [2.53]
  9. – La Gamba – anon – [0.59]
  10. – Blame not my lute – anon – [3.53]
  11. III Jane Seymour: – Gentil Prince – anon – [0.41]
  12. – En vray amoure – anon – [1.39]
  13. – Kyng Harry VIII pavyn – anon – [1.49]
  14. – Madame d’Amours – anon – [4.59]
  15. – Ricercar – Vincenzo Capirola – [3.25]
  16. – Duke of Somersett’s dompe – anon – [2.22]
  17. IV Anne of Cleves: – Ainxi bon Youre – anon (n) – [1.35]
  18. – Een vroulic wesen – Jacques Barbireau – [1.21]
  19. – La Danse de Cleves – anon – [1.43]
  20. V Catherine Howard: – Time to pas with goodly sport – Henry VIII – [2.18]
  21. – Prince Edwarde’s pavyn – anon – [2.21]
  22. – Quam pulchra es – attrib Henry VIII – [6.14]
  23. – The Kynges marke – anon – [1.16]
  24. – Adew madame – anon – [1.43]
  25. VI Catherine Parr: – Pavyn of Albart – anon – [1.37]
  26. – Galliard – anon – [1.25]
  27. – A virgine and a mother – John Marbecke – [5.36]
  28. – Ashton’s maske – Hugh Ashton – [5.36]

Early Music Scotland December 2005

This is an excellent example of a themed CD springing from a much toured and played concert programme. Representing the period of Henry’s reign through music associated in one way or another with his wives may seem an obvious idea, but when it is as expertly done as this, with largely unknown repertoire interspersed with the more familiar items, and everything sung and played to perfection the results are very special indeed. Highlights among the unfamiliar material include an exquisite song by William Cornysh ‘Whilles lyfe or Breth’ sung with a ballad-like spontaneity by Jennie Cassidy and a lovely setting of ‘Quam pulchra es’ attributed to Henry VIII himself, while on more familiar ground we have a particularly raunchy ‘Blow thi horne’ (again by Cornysh) and an unusual spinet and voice rendition of the mouthwatering partsong ‘Adew madame’.

D James Ross

The Consort – Vol. 62, Summer 2006

King Henry VIII’s passion for music was famous across Europe. By 1547 he had assembled a collection of some 380 instruments, including recorders and transverse flutes crumhorns shawms and bagpipes, lutes and viols, organs virginals and clavichords – most of which he could play. He sang well, at sight in clear tenor voice, and composed sacred and secular music. He gathered around him a galaxy of musicians, including cornysh and Fayrfax, Taverner and Tallis, and he bequeathed to us two important collections of music: the secular dances, songs and consort pieces of the Henry VIII Manuscript, and the splendid Eton Choir Book.

But his queens brought music to Henry’s court too. Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn both owned song books which show a preference for Franco-Flemish music. Anne Boleyn played the lute, as did Catherine Howard. Jane Seymour’s wedding was celebrated with shawms and sackbuts; Anne of Cleves augmented her own band of musicians with players from Prince Edward’s household; and Catherine Parr danced to her own consort of viols, brought over from Italy.

This delightful anthology brings together music reflecting many aspects of the lives of Henry and his wives: the collection looks at the musical interests sand associations of Henry’s queens in turn, sharing with us a rich tapestry of music spanning the 38 years of the king’s long reign.

Catherine of Aragon’s entourage included minstrels ho brought with them music form the Spanish court, and the anthology starts with a rousing rendition of La Spagna. This is followed by an imaginative reconstruction from the surviving fragment of Whilles lyve or breth, by Henry’s friend, the composer and courtier William Cornysh, sung on Catherine’s behalf in praise of the king’s prowess in a tournament celebrating the birth of their son Henry in 1511. But the child lived only 10 days, and already the king had fallen under the spell of the raven-haired Anne Boleyn, giving poignancy to Matthieu de Gascogne’s setting of Nigra sum (‘I am black, but beautiful’) from the Old Testament Song of Songs, taken from Catherine’s own song-book.

Anne Boleyn’s brief three years of marriage to Henry are represented by Cornysh’s cheerful hunting song Blow thi horne, and My Lady Carey’s Dumpe, named in honour of Anne’s older sister, Mary, who was Henry’s mistress before her marriage to William Carey. It is played here on the virginals, whose great exponent Mark Smeaton was cited s Anne’s lover at her trial. Anne’s dancing had attracted Henry long before their wedding, and the collection continues with the galliard La Gamba, and its vocal setting, Blame not my lute, by Thomas Wyatt, another courtier with whom Anne had been romantically entwined.

After Anne’s execution, Henry’s marriage to Jane Seymour was celebration with a procession up the Thames, with ‘shawms, sackbuts and drumslades playing also in barges…’ – an excuse for Musica Antiqua to fiels a mery battery of shawms and drums, before the exquisite beauty of Madame d’Armours, taken form Henry’s song-book and reflecting the couple’s happiness at the birth of their son Edward – an heir at last for Henry.

But Jane died only a few days after the young prince’s birth, and the king soon announced his intention of taking a new wife. Henry’s fourth marriage to Anne of Cleves – plain and provincial – was doomed form the start. Her isolation and loneliness at the English court are well reflected here in one of the few songs in the Henry VIII manuscript whose words she would have understood, Ein frölich wesen – although its mournful text about travelling unhappily in foreign lands will not have cheered her – and the anonymous Danse de Cleves, here played on the bagpipes, and adding to the rich and variety of colours in this anthology. At least Anne survived her brief marriage to Henry: after her divorce she became known as the king’s ‘sister’.

Catherine Howard, lady in waiting to Anne before becoming Henry’s fifth wife, is represented in this collection by the cheerful strains of Goodly sport, followed by a darker version of the same melody, Adew Madame, to mark her downfall, when she was suspected of taking her teacher of the virginals, one Henry Manox, as a lover, and was executed.

The cultured Catherine Parr became Henry’s sixth wife in July 15743. Her own personal viol consort, with musicians from Milan and Venice, is represented here with a Pavyn named for one of them, Albart. This is followed by the very beautiful Christmas motet, A virgine and a mother and the collection ends with a tranquil viol consort piece, Ashton’s maske.

Henry’s long reign allows Musiqa Antiqua to draw on a wide range of musical styles and traditions, and produce a delightfully varied programme: the seven musicians between them deploy some 28 different instruments with accomplishment and enthusiasm, and with great delicacy in the quieter moments. From the cheerfully boisterous Blow thi horn to the gentle charm of Whilles lyve or breth, there is much to enjoy in this well-researched and wide-ranging collection, with its vision of the pageantry and intrigue of Henry’s court, as well as its more intimate moments.

Among so much excellence it seems invidious to single out one musicians for especial praise, but the programme is built around the musical interests and inclinations of Henry’s six wives and these royal ladies are well served by Jennie Cassidy’s sweet voice, which blends perfectly with the airy textures of lute and viol.

Philip Thorby’s notes are interesting and informative, with the texts of all the vocal music, and translations of the Latin and German songs. But I was startled to read that the group is the first in the world ‘to commission and use late 15th-century viols…’ How exactly? How wonderful to be able to call upon the expertise of musicians and instrument makers of five centuries ago – all our ‘authenticity’ problems will be solved at a stroke!

Margaret Rees

BBC Music Magazine, May 2005
Performance *** Sound ****

Madame D’Amours can seduce, but not with words. Aided by scholarship, this disc re-imagines the music presence of each queen at the court of Henry VIII. Musica Antiqua of London’s command of diverse repertoires, instruments and interpretive approaches allows it to flaunt differences between the music of Henry’s various consorts. Humour, cerebral sophistication and tenderness each find their proper expression in the knitting together of counterpoint and in the delicate rhythmic shading by the players. Particularly pleasing in the robust tone and freedom of line of Jacob Heringman’s lute solos.

Berta Joncuss

Classic FM Magazine, April 2005 ****

Listen to this disc and you will be treated to a Tudor banquet of music and song. Jennie Cassidy’s pure mezzo-soprano voice is a joy, while Philip Thorby’s Musica Antiqua of London provides superbly enthusiastic accompaniements. It’s worth taking time to read the comprehensive booklet notes, which explain the important part music played in the lives of Henry’s wives. A well thought-out and presented project.

John Brunning

Classic FM Magazine

When big-time composers take time off to enjoy themselves you’d reckon the music should be pretty good fun. And it certainly is with Elena Kats-Chernin, one of Australia’s leading names. Heart-meltingly beautiful and haunting little pieces, often with a personal story as their inspiration, just pour from her prodigious imagination in Ragtime & Blue.

Natalie Wheen (presenter)