Thursday, September 18, 2014

New York Polyphony sings Beata progenies (Lionel Power d. 1445)

This video was offered by NYP in its social media feeds this morning:

Here's the Latin text from CPDL; English translation "by The St. Ann Choir, directed by William Mahrt."  The text is described there as a "Matins Responsory, Feasts of the Blessed Virgin."
Beata progenies unde Christus natus est;
quam gloriosa est virgo que caeli regem genuit.

Blessed is the parent from whom Christ was born;
O how glorious is the virgin who brought forth the King of heaven

Cantus database lists this as an antiphon sung at various Marian feasts; the earliest certain date of its provenance listed there is ~1175, in a "Cistercian antiphoner from the Abbey of St. Mary of Morimondo in the diocese of Milan."  The antiphon in that volume was used at Mattins of Nativitas Mariae  (i.e., the Nativity of Mary, September 8).   I so far can't find any image of the antiphon from these manuscripts, but will post it if I do find one.

Wikipedia says about Leonel Power - that's another spelling of his first name - that:  "Leonel Power (1370 to 1385 – 5 June 1445) was an English composer of the late Medieval and early Renaissance eras. Along with John Dunstaple, he was one of the major figures in English music in the early 15th century.[1][2]"

Also that:
While Power's output was slightly less than Dunstaple's (only 40 extant pieces can be definitely attributed to him), his influence was similar. He is the composer best represented in the Old Hall Manuscript, one of the only undamaged sources of English music from the early 15th century (most manuscripts were destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536-1540 under Henry VIII).

Power was one of the first composers to set separate movements of the Ordinary of the Mass which were thematically unified and intended for contiguous performance. The Old Hall Manuscript contains his mass based on the Marian antiphon, Alma Redemptoris Mater, in which the antiphon is stated literally in the tenor in each movement, unornamented. This is the only cyclic setting of the mass Ordinary which can be attributed to him.[4]

The audio was recorded at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York; fantastic acoustics!

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