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Mortensemble was officially founded in January, 2013 with the debut release of William Byrd's "Ave verum corpus".
The concept of Mortensemble, under the direction of Erik-Peter Mortensen, is to be an ensemble of recording artists specializing in recording and producing performances of the great choral masters, as well as the choral works of Mr. Mortensen. Based in New York, it is especially difficult to get top professional singers to coordinate recording and performance schedules, as they are always in high demand, and very busy. To that end, Erik-Peter chooses recording projects based on the availability of his roster and the vocal requirements of a particular piece, which means, in some cases, a very versatile member may sing more than one vocal part on the recording. in the case of the debut release, for example, Mr. Mortensen sang all choral parts (SATB) doubled, producing a recorded ensemble of 8 singers!
The initial roster of professional singers that Mr. Mortensen will call upon for projects includes:
Sarah Moulton Faux (soprano, alto)
Katrina Montagne (soprano, alto)
Catherine Hedberg (soprano, alto)
John Tully (countertenor)
Aaron Lauber (countertenor)
Bill Heigen (countertenor, tenor, baritone)
Edwin Santayana (tenor)
Erik-Peter Mortensen (countertenor, tenor, baritone, bass)
Benjamin Clements (baritone, bass)
This roster will now doubt expand in the coming years, and it's more than probable that a live performance of Mortensemble may be planned in the future.
About the track
Ave verum corpus is a short Eucharistic hymn that has been set to music by various composers. It dates from the 14th century and has been attributed to Pope Innocent VI. During the Middle Ages it was sung at the elevation of the host during the consecration. It was also used frequently during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The hymn's title means "Hail, true body", and is based on a poem deriving from a 14th-century manuscript from the Abbey of Reichenau, Lake Constance. The poem is a meditation on the Catholic belief in Jesus's Real Presence in the sacrament of the Eucharist, and ties it to the Catholic conception of the redemptive meaning of suffering in the life of all believers.
The text is in Latin, and reads:
Ave verum corpus, natum
de Maria Virgine,
vere passum, immolatum
in cruce pro homine,
cuius latus perforatum
fluxit aqua et sanguine:
esto nobis praegustatum
in mortis examine.
O Iesu dulcis, O Iesu pie, O Iesu, fili Mariae.
Miserere mei. Amen.
A translation into English is:
Hail, true Body, born
of the Virgin Mary,
who having truly suffered, was sacrificed
on the cross for mankind,
whose pierced side
flowed with water and blood:
May it be for us a foretaste [of the Heavenly banquet]
in the trial of death.
O sweet Jesus, O pious Jesus, O Jesus, son of Mary,
have mercy on me. Amen.
William Byrd's Setting (from Atrium Musicologicum)
Byrd was a student of Tallis, and they combine together various obligations through their lifetimes they were both gentlemen of the Chapel’s Royal Mix lead group of singers that followed the monarch around from venue to venue and provided the music for worship services. Byrd was a devoted catholic and was prosecuted for this during his lifetime.
In order to understand how Byrd sets the text of the motet Ave Verum Corpus it is necessary to understand what it meant to him: for Byrd, the Blessed Sacrament which is the consecrated bread at the Mass contains the real presence of Christ. The first phrase of this Ave Verum Corpus means Hail true body and for Byrd the most important word wasn’t Ave or Corpus, but Verum because word true meant that He was the true presence of Christ in this bread. This was one of the main differences between the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church, and he wanted to emphasise this word Verum in the first phrase. And he did it by using a very particularly expressive device.
The device is called false-relation. A false-relation is when a note and it’s chromatically altered note appear very close to one another, in this case F# and F natural.
The "false-relation" of F#-F, between the Superius and Bassus, emphasises the Verum, in a sort of demosntrating of the true corpus. This "expression" was very common in English music of this period. Byrd's master Thomas Tallis often used it on some of his works.
A great English scholar comment once the vicious English taste for false-relations, where they put it on many contexts that the continentals wouldn’t. This marked English music out as particularly expressive.
Mortensemble members recorded on this track
Erik-Peter Mortensen, all choral parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), doubled
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