CD of the Month: Taverner Masses
Our CD of the month for July is Taverner: Missa Mater Christi Sanctissima & Western Wynde Mass, the latest recording to be released by the Westminster Abbey Choir. The CD contains the two masses named above with the tracks relating to the different sections of the mass – Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei. Unlike many other recordings released by the Westminster Abbey Choir this one does not feature the organ and relies solely on the amazing voices of its thirty-strong choir conducted by James O’Donnell.
The composer of these masses is John Taverner, the Tudor composer who made a great contribution to late Medieval English sacred music. Taverner’s early life is a mystery as nothing is known about him till 1524, however it is thought that he was born around 1490 in Lincolnshire. The first major event in his life that we know of was when he was appointed by Cardinal Wolsey as Organist and Master of the Choristers at Christ College in Oxford. As far as we can tell he had no further musical appointments after he left Christ College in 1530 and he does not appear to have composed anything after this time either. This seems strange as he lived a further fifteen years before dying in 1545 and being buried in St Botolph’s in Boston.
The masses included in this CD are thought of as his two best-known works. Missa Mater Christi Sanctissima translates as ‘Mother of Christ Holy Mass’, and was written in response to the Wolsey’s need for Marian focussed music. Western Wynde Mass is based on the tune of an early 16th century song called ‘Westron Wynde’, thought to be a fragment of medieval poetry. Both masses are musical masterpieces following a similar structure and featuring a spectacular layering of the voices of the choristers and the lay vicars.
This is one of the Westminster Abbey Choir’s many recordings that you can purchase from our online shop; other recent releases include ‘Parry: I was Glad’, ‘Music for Remembrance’ and ‘Rejoice the Lord is King!’ You can browse these, and other CDs, by clicking here.