Renaissance music as bold as brass

Neil Taylor, guest with Clifton and Lightcliffe band
Neil Taylor, guest with Clifton and Lightcliffe band

SHEFFIELD University’s spring series of concerts begin with an evening of mostly Italian Renaissance music for brass and voices at Firth Hall next Wednesday.

It is given by the noted Onyx Brass and senior choral forces of Sheffield Cathedral Choir directed by Neil Taylor: the excellent Cathedral Songmen, the city’s only professional choir, and the female Schola Cantorum made up of 18-year-old-plus university undergraduates and budding professional singers.

Two of the composers straddle music’s transition into its Baroque era, Monteverdi: Deus in adjutorium from his 1610 Vespers, and Giovanni Gabrieli, who is heard twice as this year, marking the 400th anniversary of his death in 1612 with settings of O magnum mysterium and Jubilate Deo.

It is probably coincidence that the name of Catalan composer Xavier Montsalvatge is there in the 100-year anniversary of his birth, not to mention the 20th anniversary of his death in 1992.

He penned a brass piece, Questions and Answers on a theme of Andrea Gabrieli, which follows one by Giovanni’s uncle, Ricercar del duodecuimi tuoni, while two choral works are the best-known pieces on offer.

They are one of Palestrina’s most enduring works, Missa Papae Marcelli, and even better known, Allegri’s Miserere, the exclusive property of the Vatican until a 14-year-old Mozart heard it in the Sistine Chapel and wrote it down from memory.

Other Onyx Brass (three trumpets, horn and tuba) pieces are the Renaissance Dances by the Elizabethan composer Anthony Holborne and the considerably more recent Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis by Timothy Jackson.