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Music for the Six Wives of Henry VIII

Music for the Six Wives of Henry VIII

Ref: CDG1010

24 tracks 63 min
Click here to preview trk 11

Henry VIII was a musician and music lover. This album of cheerful songs and dances brings together some of Henry's own compositions with the best Renaissance music from England and the continent, reflecting the taste of each of Henry's wives and giving a lively impression of Tudor court life.

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Music for the Six Wives of Henry VIII

Spanish, French, Italian and English music - including many pieces by Henry VIII himself - in a programme designed to reflect the tastes and characters of Henry's wives. Cheerful songs, dances and reflective pieces give an impression of court life and the music that was made and composed there. Many of the pieces are taken from a manuscript which was written during the reign of Henry VIII and which contains many of the King's own compositions.

Catherine of Aragon
1 Riu riu: el lobo rabioso Anon
2 Dezi, flor rresplandeciente Anon
3 La Manana de San Juan Anon
4 Consort Henry VIII
Anne Boleyn
5 Helas Madame Henry VIII
6 Amy souffrez Isaac
7 And I were a mayden Henry VIII
8 Consort Henry VIII
Jane Seymour
9 Pastime with good company Henry VIII
10 Greensleeves Henry VIII
11 Quene Note Anon
12 Consort Henry VIII
Anne of Cleves
13 Danse de Cleves Anon
14 Scopri lingua Tromboncino
15 Nec michi nec tibi Obrecht
16 Consort Henry VIII
Catherine Howard
17 Green groweth the holly Henry VIII
18 Le pied de cheval (Horses Brawl) Anon
19 Blow thy horn hunter Cornish
20 Consort Henry VIII
Catherine Parr
21 Fantasia VIII Milan
22 Wolsey's Wilde Anon
23 Westron Wind Anon
24 Consort Henry VIII

Sara Stowe, soprano
Matthew Spring, vihuela, guitar, viol, lute, hurdy-gurdy
Jon Banks, harp, recorder, drums, guitar, gittern
Martin Souter, clavichord

Henry VIII's turbulent loves and life are famous. It is not so often remembered, however, that court life had its own rhythms and occasions which continued throughout all the confusion and turmoil of the King's personal problems. Music was a major feature of that court life, and this included marvellous, soaring choral music to match the superb ecclesiastical buildings that Henry VIII built or worshipped in. But court life also included more secular, domestic music-making in which the king himself took an important part. He was an accomplished composer, as the works on this album will show, and it is clear that he liked music, and that it was one of his many accomplishments as one of the most cultured and intellectually gifted monarchs that the English throne has ever seen.

This album assembles music from Henry's court, primarily taking it from a manuscript which was created in the early years of his reign. This hand-written book assembled many pieces of music which would have been heard in the court, including those composed by the King himself. The emphasis is French, and, on the whole, a conservative musical style. Many of the pieces are exceptionally beautiful, and it is easy to imagine them being played in the grand setting of Hampton court or one of the other royal palaces.

The pieces on this album have been grouped together here to represent each of Henry's wives - hence the distinctly Spanish style of the opening few tracks, which are for Catherine of Aragon. Each section of music ends with a quiet, gentle piece (a 'Consort'), written by Henry, and which are dotted about throughout the manuscript. Anne Boleyn was educated in France, so the pieces for her are French in style. Helas madame is a love song by Henry. And I were a mayden reflects her youth when she became Queen. Pastime with good company, which we have placed with Jane Seymour, is probably Henry's most famous composition, along with Greensleeves, a beautiful melody which is often attributed to the king's pen. Anne of Cleves has her European dance, and a Flemish song from Obrecht, one of the greatest European composers of the time.

Catherine Howard's music is more rustic, with echoes of the countryside and the royal ritual of hunting. Le pied de cheval is from an English manuscript, despite its French title, and is sometimes known as the Horse's Brawl. Catherine Parr's music features some traditional English tunes and a beautiful Italian fantasia, first published in 1536, which Henry may have played to her.

This fantasia is played here on a vihuela. This instrument belong to the same family as the guitar, the lute and the gittern, all of which are plucked instruments. The viol is similar to the modern cello. The hurdy-gurdy is a superbly robust instrument. Its drones are created by spinning a wheel against a set of strings and it plays melodies via a small keyboard for the player's left hand. The clavichord is one of the earliest types of keyboard instrument. Small metal tangents on the ends of its keys hit the strings and make quiet, gentle sounds. Its volume level is slightly increased on this recording to balance the other instruments, but in reality it would be a lot quieter.

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