Henry's Music

Ref: CD705

Henry's Music
Motets from a Royal Choirbook
Songs by Henry VIII

1 O Christe Jesu, pastor bone (John Taverner)
2 King's Pavan (Anonymous)
3 England be glad (Anonymous)
4 Consort XII (Henry VIII)
5 Madame d'amours (Anonymous)
6 Tandernaken (Henry VIII)
Motets from a Royal Choirbook
(British Library, MS Roy. 11.e.xi)
7 Salve radix (Sampson?)
8 Psallite felices (Sampson)
9 Sub tuum presidium (Benedictus de Opitiis)
10 Quam pulcra est (Sampson)
11 Hec est preclarum (Anonymous)
12 Beati omnes (Jacotin)
13 Consort XIII (Henry VIII)
14 O my heart (Henry VIII)
15 Helas madame (Henry VIII)
16 Though some saith (Henry VIII)
17 Nil majus superi vident (Philippe Verdelot?)
18 Consort VIII (Henry VIII)
19 Adieu madame (Henry VIII)
20 En vray amoure (Henry VIII)
21 Lauda vivi alpha et oo (Robert Fayrfax)

Grace Davidson, SOPRANO
Julia Doyle, SOPRANO
Clare Wilkinson, MEZZO SOPRANO
Steven Harrold, TENOR (track 3 only)
Mark Dobell, TENOR
Christopher Watson, TENOR
William Unwin, TENOR
Simon Wall, TENOR
Gregory Skidmore, BARITONE
Timothy Scott Whiteley, BARITONE
Oliver Hunt, BASS
Robert Macdonald, BASS

& 2009 Classical Communications Ltd
Made in Great Britain

Cover image: Henry VIII in 1540 (oil on panel). Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8-1543).
Palazzo Barberini. Rome/Bridgeman Art Library.
Recorded in the chapel of Magdalen College, Oxford (track 3; 27th April 2006),
St Michael's Church, Summertown, Oxford (tracks 1, 2, 6, 7-12, 15, 17, 18, 21; 15-17th September 2008),
and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (tracks 4, 5, 13, 14, 16, 19, 29; 25-26th May 2008)
Produced and Engineered by Martin Souter
Performing editions by David Skinner

Meta haec servitii est,
haec libertatis origo,
Tristitiae finis,
laetitiaeque caput.
This is an end to our servitude,
his is the fount of freedom,
The end of sadness and the summit
of our joy.
In Inaugurationem Regis & Reginae
Carmen Gratulatorium (1509)

On 24 June 1509 Henry Tudor was
crowned the eighth English king of that
name. His early reign was seen by all as a
new Golden Age, full of opulence,
spendour, majesty and harmony. Thomas
More wrote the adjacent lines as part of
an extended poem celebrating the King's
accession, ignorant of the knowledge that
Henry's Reformation of the 1530s and
'40s was to fundamentally change the
religious landscape of England forever
and claim More's own life. While Henry's
reputation is today largely that of the
tyrant, in the first 20 years of his reign he
was perhaps one of the greatest royal
patrons of the musical arts in all of Europe.
Here we explore the other Henry: the
musician, scholar, and happy prince.
Henry, of course, was not originally
destined to be king. As the second son of
Henry VII he was raised in the manner of
any European prince and received a
sound education, with original hopes, it
seems, for high places in the Church.
Henry excelled at languages, literature,
theology, sport and, most famously,
music. It was the untimely death in 1502
of his older brother Arthur that thrust the
young Duke of York into the limelight.
When Henry VIII came to the throne just before his 18th birthday, he was a very
different character to that most famously
produced by Hans Holbein on the cover of
this CD: before the iconic image of the
obese and fearsome dictator came a
youthful, tall, strikingly handsome and
benevolent prince. The court during his
early years on the throne must have
abounded with cultural activity. Indeed,
the number of full-time musicians
employed in his household increased from
around a half dozen to no less than 58. He
also kept his own private household chapel
choir in addition to his Chapel Royal,
containing the finest musicians in the land,
which was a regular and important part of
his retinue. Later in life he would go on to
found or re-found a number of England's
greatest musical institutions that still exist
today, including Christ Church, Oxford,
and Trinity College, Cambridge, as well as
finishing King's College Chapel, that grand
project started in 1441 by the teenage
Henry VI.
There is much, therefore, to offer in a
single recording of Henry's Music. The
chosen works may be divided into two
broad categories: music written for Henry
and by Henry. Sub-categories might also
include church and chamber music, vocal
and instrumental, but the main point to
demonstrate is the wealth of creativity
that flowered at this time and the sheer
beauty and emotional impact of the
music itself.
The centrepiece is the complete
contents - six motets - from British
Library, MS Royal 11.e.xi, a royal
choirbook gifted to Henry VIII and
Catherine of Aragon in around 1518.
A number of scholars have tackled the
historical and musical nature of this
beautifully illustrated book, though still
relatively little concrete information is
known of its origin and function. It may
have come from the workshop of Petrus
Alamire who is known to have produced at
least two other lavish choirbooks destined
for the court of Henry VIII; certainly the
supposed date of the manuscript neatly
coincides with Alamire's known visits to
England (Dumitrescu and others, however,
argue that the book is likely not to be an
Alamire production).1
1The most recent account of this manuscript has been written by Dr Nicolas Bell in
The Henry VIII Motet Book: A Facsimile of British Library,
Royal MS 11 E XI (The Folio Society, 2009).
Nevertheless, the book is remarkable on
many counts. The frontispiece contains an
extended tribute to Henry VIII which is
set among Tudor roses and a fortified
island representing England. The text
Psallite felices (track 8) is set by the German
composer 'Sampson' about whom very
little is known, though a number of his
works appear in Continental printed
sources. He is probably also the composer
of the 'Rose Canon' Salve radix (track 7)
(see illustration on the back of this booklet)
which curiously takes the singers via the
application of musica ficta through two
'pitch spirals' so that the piece ends a tone
lower than notated. Sub tuum presidium
(track 9) by Benedictus de Opitiis, one of
Henry's musicians, ends with a prayer to
the king, while the anonymous Hec est
preclarum (track 11) is a beautiful setting
extolling the virtues of the Virgin Mary.
The five-part Quam pulcra es (track 10), also
by Sampson, with its erotic overtones (the
text adapted from the Song of Solomon)
seems an odd inclusion in this royal gift,
but it is perhaps the most musically
successful in the collection. The book ends
with a three-part setting of Psalm 127 (128
in English) Beati omnes qui timent dominum
(track 12), a text set by a number of
composers. For the Royal Choirbook, its
inclusion may have been intended, owing
to the theme of 'children's children', as a
prayer willing on the perpetuation of the
Tudor dynasty. The work has recently
been identified by Patrice Nicolas as being
by a certain 'Jacotin'; in one of the several
printed editions of this work it has the
heading 'ad pares' ('to equal voices'),
signifying, it is understood, that the work
should be sung with lower voices than
other works in the collection, as is the
practice for this recording.
It is well known that the King himself
was an accomplished musician, and that
he was a competent player of a variety
of keyboard, string, and wind instruments.
It is, in fact, the image of Henry playing
his harp in the so-called Henry VIII
Psalter (right) that inspired the use of
gothic harp on this recording. According
to Sir Peter Carew, a Gentleman of
Henry's Privy Chamber, the king was
also 'much delighted to sing'; additionally
he was somewhat of an accomplished
composer having set at least two masses
in five parts, which, in the words of the
the chronicler Edward Halle, 'were song oftentimes in hys chapel, and afterwardes
in diverse other places'. The main
testament to his compositional skill,
however, is the so-called Henry VIII
Manuscript (British Library, Add. MS
31922), which contains 109 songs and
instrumental pieces by composers attached
to the court as well as a handful of works
by foreign musicians. No fewer than 33 of
the compositions, a third of the entire
collection, are ascribed to 'the kyng h.viii'.
The nine works by Henry recorded here
are among his most successful, Tandernaken
(track 6) being, arguably, his most
accomplished. Most famous in the
collection Pastime with good company, has
been recorded many times and therefore
passed over here; Though some saith (track
16), however, is a perfect substitute having
a similar structure but a message more
relevant to Henry's youthful character
(and a character that he was to revise quite
radically in the coming decades). Adieu
madame (track 19) and O my heart (track 14)
in particular seem to have been conjured
from the very depths of Henry's emotions
and aptly reveal a young king in love.
Apart from the motets in 11.e.xi, three
'tribute' motets to Henry VIII have also
come down to us. O Christe Jesu, pastor bone
(track 1) by John Taverner, was originally
composed in honour of Cardinal Wolsey,
founder of Cardinal College, Oxford,
but shortly after Taverner's death in
1545 it was adapted for Henry VIII's
re-foundation of the college as Christ
Church (1546) (it seems unlikely that
the work would have been adapted for
'King's College' Oxford, Henry's first
re-foundation of Wolsey's Oxford
college). The work was further adapted
later in the 16th century with a prayer in
honour of Henry's second daughter
Earlier still is Fayrfax's setting of Lauda
vivi alpha et oo (track 21), probably
composed soon after Henry came to the
throne in 1509. The work is typical of the
great pre-Reformation votive antiphon in
its confidence, grandeur, and vast musical
architecture. It was to be the great
musical art forms such as this, forged
from a long, unbroken tradition, that
would be swept away by Henry's
Reformation. As it happens, Foxe, in his
Book of Martyrs, relays an incident at
St George's Chapel, Windsor, regarding
a setting of this text (most probably
Fayrfax's) in which two singing-men,
Robert Testwood, on the staff at St
George's, and Robert Phillips, a
Gentleman of the King's Chapel, clashed
over doctrinal matters. When singing one
of the 'counteruerses' (one of the sections
with reduced scoring, normally reserved
for soloists as on the current recording),
the two singers began vocal sparring:
The matter was this. Robert Phillips was so
notable a singing man (wherein he gloryed)
that wheresoeuer he came, the best and longest
song, with most counteruerses in it, shuld be set
vp at his commyng. And so his chaunce beyng
now to be at Windsore, agaynst hys comming to
the Antheme, a long song was set vp, called
Lauda viui. In which song there was one
counteruerse toward the end, that began on this
wise, O redemptrix & saluatrix. Which
verse of all other, Robert Phillips woulde sing,
because he knew that Testwood could not abide
that dittie. Now Testwood knowing his mynd
well enough, ioyned with him at the other part
and when he heard Robert Phillips begin to
fetch his flourish with O redemptrix &
saluatrix: repeating the same one in anothers
neck. Testwood was as quicke on the other side
to answer hym agayne with Non redemptrix,
nec saluatrix, and so striuyng there with O
and Non, who should haue the maistrie, they
made an ende of the verse. Whereat was good
laughyng in sleeues of some, but Robert Phillips
with other of Testwoods enimies were sore
In Fayrfax's work this very likely took
place after the prayer for Henry 'pro rege
nostro ora Henrico octavo inclito . . .
nosque tuos pios famulos adiuta/
salvifica', when a final homage to the
Virgin is paid: 'O precatrix et adjutrix
benedicta' (the source for this work dates
from the 1540s and the text, it seems, had
been mildly corrupted). During Henry's
reign Marian texts were often censored
and even altered to more general themes
of Jesus or the Holy Trinity. Lauda vivi is a good musical example of such
adaptation in what regularly appeared in
prayer books of the time.
Outside of England, Henry was lavishly
praised in a setting of Nil majus superi
vident (track 17) very likely composed by
the French composer Philippe Verdelot
who was active in Florence in the 1520s.
The motet forms part of a collection of
30 motets and 30 madrigals compiled, it
would seem, under Verdelot's direction
and delivered as a diplomatic gift to
Henry VIII in around 1526.2
The motet is constructed using a
technique known as 'soggetto cavato', in
which the vowels of the text 'Henricus
dei gratia anglie rex' (Henry, by the grace
of God, the English King) are set as
solmization syllables 're-mi-ut-re-mi-fami-
fa-fa-mi-re-re' and deployed as a
structural cantus firmus for the entire
work. The text shows that Henry was
well recognized in foreign lands as a king
with force and integrity, though equally a
man of sentiment and understanding:
'knowledgeable in military matters, even
more desirous of peace'. Henry's second
incarnation as king - the Reforming King
- would tell a different story.
David Skinner
Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge

2 The complete madrigals from this collection are available on Obsidian Records:
Alamire/Lynda Sayce, Madrigals for a Tudor King (CD703), directed by David Skinner