YORK EARLY MUSIC FESTIVAL
(The Times - 12 July 2006)
For gentleman performers of The Cardinall’s Musick, Monday night at York Minster was open-necked-shirt night. A concession to balmy temperatures, perhaps? More likely, the group’s director, Andrew Carwood, wanted no obstruction to impede any velvet throats. ‘Sing out’ seems his permanent directive. And so they did, sallying forth upon and exceptional programme of Tudor music for church and court in the lush Chapter House acoustic.
For the York Early Music Festival, dedicated this year to the theme of ‘dynastic strands’, this was the perfect attraction. Here was music written for five Tudor monarchs: music of different styles and religions, reflecting the 16th century’s upheavals. Henry VIII, of course, jumped in with a piece of his own, the direct and bouncy Pastime with good company, though our good company was mostly pyramids of ceremonial polyphony, sometime wrapped round the most forbidding words.
Take the line ‘Isacchar quoque Nazaphat necnon Ismaria’. This genealogical nugget would seem to defeat anyone’s genius. But Robert Fayrfax got through it; when your motet is commissioned by Henry VII’s wife, you donít walk away. The Cardinall’s in any case could make music out of a John Prescott speech. Clear tones; perfect intonation; an ideal balance between individual colour and an ensemble blend; emotional directness: Monday night found them on triumphant top form.