Northerne Wynde. Music of Walter FRYE / Ferrara Ensemble

Marc Aurel Edition MA 20018
febrero de 1999
Church St. Germanus, Seewen/Solothurn, CH

2 sopranos, 2 tenors, bass
01 - Agnus Dei   [4:58]

02 - So ys emprentid  (instr.)   [2:31]

soprano MA, alto, 2 tenores, baritone, bass
03 - Kyrie alternatim   [4:41]
04 - Gloria   [4:42]
05 - Credo   [5:19]

06 - Alas, alas  (instr.)   [3:27]
viola d'arco, lute

07 - Sanctus   [6:33]
08 - Agnus Dei   [5:25]

09 - Ave regina coelorum  (instr.)   [2:14]
dulce melos, lute

10 - O florens rosa   [3:45]
alto, viola d'arco, harp

alto, tenor EM, bass
11 - Gloria   [5:37]
12 - Credo   [5:30]
13 - Sanctus   [5:54]
14 - Agnus Dei   [5:05]

Brussels, Koninklijke Bibliotheek/Bibliothèque Royale Albert Ier, MS 5557
#1: f. 36v-38 // #3-5,7-8: f. 90v-99  // #11-14: f.2v-10
New Haven, Yale University, Beinecke Libray, MS 91
#2: f. 61v-63 // #6: f. 77v-79
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Sgm 810
#9: f37v-39 // #10: f.98v-101

Crawford Young

Miriam Anderesen, soprano, harp
Kathleen Dineen, soprano
Lena Susanne Norin, alto
Petter Johansen, tenor
Eric Mentzel, tenor
Reiner Shcneider-Waterberg, baritone
Stephen Grant, bass
Randall Cook, viola d'arco
Karl-Heinz Schichaus, dulce melos
Crawford Young, lute

discografí del Ferrara Ensemble



"As for the Duke's court, as of lords and gentlewomen, knights, squires and gentlemen, I heard never of one like it, save King Arthur's court...for they of the Duke's court, both gentlemen and gentlewomen, have no want of such gear (as cloth of gold and silver) and gold and pearls and precious stones..."(1)

When the English courtier Sir John Paston attended the wedding of Burgundian Duke Charles the Bold and Margaret of York (sister of King Edward IV) at Bruges in 1468, he included these remarks in a letter to his mother describing the the nine days of jousting and feasting which followed the marriage. Paston was here witness to one of the great ceremonial occasions of fifteenth-century Europe. The nostalgic perception of a waning Age of Chivalry, all but already gone, may have colored some of the entertainments at this event, but who among the guests would have thought that the end of the Burgundian regime would come with the fall of Charles the Bold a mere eight years later? As the fourth and final "great duke" of the House of Valois, Charles' misguided and aggressive political acts ultimately sealed the fate of what had been one of the world's most opulent, chivalric and powerful courts, and his arrogance led him to an ignominious death on a muddy battlefield in Nancy on 5 January 1477.

Among the treasures of the Burgundian court which were left to posterity is a collection of polyphonic music which provides an unusually clear picture of what sort of music was enjoyed at the court during the time of Charles the Bold. Manuscript 5557 of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek at Brussels is a unique source which preserves the sacred works of some of the court's favorite composers of the 1460s and 70s. These composers include Antoine Busnois, Johannes Ockeghem and Walter Frye, who were among the most famous musicians of the period. The Anglo-Burgundian cultural climate of Charles' court is underlined in the Brussels manuscript by the presence of Masses by the Englishmen John Plummer and Richard Cox, but it is the music of Walter Frye which found a wider audience during the period. Frye's "Missa Summe trinitati", the opening mass of the Brussels manuscript, is a beautiful example of his art; although a Kyrie is lacking in the Brussels source, a motet attributed to Frye as "Salve virgo mater" (recorded in 1997 by the Ferrara Ensemble on "The Whyte Rose: poétique anglo-bourguignonne au temps de Charles le Téméraire", Arcana A301) is thematically so close that it may well be the missing Kyrie in contrafact form.

The "Missa Sine nomine" lacks any composer's name in the choirbook, has no recognizable cantus firmus, and is unique to this manuscript source. It is found on folios 90v - 99 of the choirbook (see facsimile edition by Rob Wegman, ed., Choirbook of the Burgundian Court Chapel: Brussels, Koninklijke Bibliotheek MS. 5557, Peer: Musica-Alamire 1989). When one searches for a possible author of this work, the name of Walter Frye comes to mind for perhaps two reasons. First, the Brussels choirbook contains three other cyclical Masses by this composer, and second, the Missa Sine nomine is stylistically and melodically quite close to Frye's threepart motet "Sospitati dedit". At the same time, there is no way to be sure that this Mass is "English" (for the criteria for identifying a specific "English" musical style in the fifteenth-century remain, in fact, quite elusive), and it could be argued that this work does not quite achieve the level of subtle melodic invention reached by works such as Summe trinitati.

Late medieval liturgical polyphony for the Mass was not composed as concert music in the modern sense, that is, as a group of pieces to be heard in direct succession. It was an ornament to the presentation of the liturgical text, and was heard in between sections of spoken text. For this reason we have felt that the use of appropriate instrumental interludes can have a place in the performance of cyclical Mass music as concert repertoire, and have chosen secular pieces by Frye for this purpose, including the well-known love song "So ys emprentid" ("So is imprinted in my remembrance your womanhood, your youth, your graciousness...").

As far as is known, Frye was an Englishman who may never have left England; one thinks of him as a 'northerne' musician. His music is 'wynd' music, that is, texted and thus conceived to be sung, sounded by means of the breath. The title of this CD also refers to an early-fourteenth-century poem "Blou, northerne wynd, send thou me my suetyng", beautifully set to music and sung by John Fleagle (1952-1999), who also performed Frye's music, and whose spirit will always live in our remembrance.

We would also like to express our heartfelt thanks to Barbara Schwendowius and Klaus Neumann at WDR (Cologne) as well as Melbourne International Festival of Organ and Harpsichord/David Agg (Melbourne) and Pro Helvetia (Zurich) for the realization of this project.
Crawford Young

(1) see Roger Virgoe, ed., Private Life in the Fifteenth Century: Illustrated Letters of the Paston Family, New York, 1989, 167.