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WHILE SHEPHERDS WATCHED
Clemens: Pastores quidnam vidistis?
Clemens: Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis (Kyrie and Gloria)
Victoria: Quem vidistis pastores?
Pedro de Christo: Quaeramus cum pastoribus
Giovanni Croce: Quaeramus cum pastoribus
Clemens: Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis (Credo)
Obrecht: Salve regina
Philips: Salve regina a 8
Clemens: Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis (Sanctus and Agnus)
This programme takes a slightly different look from usual at the Christmas story, viewing it from the point of view of the shepherds who came to worship at the crib. Unsurprisingly there is a wealth of great music in the renaissance period devoted to this episode. The starting point this evening is the mass by Clemens non Papa, which is based on his own motet Pastores quidnam vidistis (Who did you see, Shepherds?), which the Tallis Scholars recorded in 1986, helping to give Clemens a new profile. The five movements of this mass act as a sandwich to similar texts by other masters from the late renaissance, from all over Europe. Clemens himself was Flemish. The Spanish Victoria is well-known, the Portuguese Pedro de Christo less so.
Our first half ends with a magnificent double choir motet by Giovanni Croce, written within the Venetian tradition of answering choirs. The meat of the sandwich in the second half is made up of two settings of the Salve regina. The Obrecht was one of the first motets in history to use as many as six voices – this remained unusual in the late 15th century. By the time Peter Philips (no relation) was writing a hundred years later, six voices was the least of it. Here he joins the Italian tradition of writing for double choir in the grandest fashion. The music then concludes with the mesmerising beauty of the Clemens’ ‘Agnus’. – Peter Phillips