Saturday, 12 January 2013

Henry VIII, and Clifford Bartletts Account

Maybe of interest. The booklet notes from the testament recording of Henry VIII, and His Six Wives. Barletts account on DM appears at the end of a review.

However, the claim that this recording was the first film to be entirely scored with early musical instruments is an "open question". RS


With most historical films, one finds a contrast between the requirement
of historical verisimilitude of the visual aspects, which requires the most
detailed accuracy in matters of architecture and dress, and the period
specificity of the music, which may use an old tune or two (not necessary
of the right period) to give an air of antiquity but otherwise is entirely
modern. The commissioning of music from David Munrow for the 1972
film Henry VIII and his Six Wives (starring Keith Michell as the king,
Donald Pleasance as Thomas Cromwell, Charlotte Rampling as Anne
Boleyn and Jane Asher as Jane Seymour) implied the desire for something
different, and what was provided was both attractive and effective,
composed, arranged and performed with the panache that was
characteristic of all David Munrow’s activities.

This was, according to the note David Munrow wrote for the first
release of the music as an LP, “the first historical film in which the music
has been scored entirely for historical instruments”. Much of the music is
of the period, though sometimes orchestrated more extravagantly than
would probably have happened at the time. There is also music for
emotional or ceremonial effect for which original material was
unsuitable, and for those David Munrow changed role from player and
orchestrator to composer. Sometimes he used Tudor styles or individual
pieces as a basis, such as The King’s Hunt [10] or an Irish jig, [16],
sometimes he writes music that is modern in style though with an
instrumental colour that places it in the past. We also meet Munrow as
poet in the Ballad of Robin and Marion [7].

Music was one of Henry’s own accomplishments. Most of the pieces
‘composed’ by him are closely related to existing music or student
exercises. Pastime with Good Company [5] is the best known of these.
Like other monarchs, when money was available, he used music to
enhance the prestige and grandeur of his court. There were musicians at
hand, both for public activity and his private amusement: for war games,
the royal chapel, banquets, and private relaxation. The amount of music
surviving from the time is quite small. Much of it was not written down:
some was improvised, some remembered. Music publishing depended on
an amateur market, and that did not appear in Britain until the last
decade or so of the 16th century.

Although in some ways English music was quite different from that of
the continent, Henry regularly employed foreign musicians, and the court
was influenced by the tastes of its other members. Catherine of Aragon,
for instance, would have known the sort of music heard on the
companion disc Music for Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain (Testament
SBT 1251) and the court encountered French music at the Field of the
Cloth of Gold in 1520. One of the composers there with the French court
was Claudin de Sermisy. Then known primarily for his church music, a
decade later he became the most prominent composer in a series of song
anthologies that were issue by the Parisian publisher Attaingnant.
Jouyssance vous Donneray [1] became particularly well known and was
turned into a dance, and through the intermediary of a dance treatise of
1588, it became part of the 20th-century string orchestra repertoire as the
opening movement of Peter Warlock’s Capriol Suite. The basse danse was
a slightly old-fashioned formal dance for couples in a slow procession.
The other chief dances of the period were the pavan (in duple time) and
the galliard. Le Bon Vouloir [2] is from a series of dance collections
published by Gervaise in Paris in the 1550s and Traditore [3] is from the
1571 anthology by Phal├Ęse in Antwerp. [13-16] also come from the midcentury
dance anthologies. The closing music [23] is based on two
traditional English tunes, Turkeyloney and The Staines Morris.
The keyboard pieces (played by Christopher Hogwood on a regal, a
small keyboard instrument which makes a snarling noise disproportionate
to its size, and a harpsichord) come from a manuscript of the period,
while the song O Death rock me asleep, supposed to have been written
by Anne Boleyn in the Tower of London just before her death, is from an
early-17th-century manuscript.

[24-29] are taken from the LP Greensleeves to a Ground that appeared
in 1977, the year after David Munrow’s death. The title track, in which he is
accompanied by George Malcolm, is a set of variations on a tune that is
popularly attributed to Henry VIII. In fact, it emerged later in the 16th
century, but ‘composed’ is too strong a word: it is just one of the melodies
that emerged to fit a standard bass pattern used for improvisation at the time,
the Romanesca. The late-17th century setting is prefaced by a statement of
the tune in the harmonisation familiar from Vaughan Williams, which
sounds more archaic than the early versions.

Flow my tears was Dowland’s best-known song, first composed as a lute
pavan in the 1590s and equipped with words for his Second Booke of Songs
of 1600. It also forms the starting point for a set of seven pavans for strings
and lute under the title Lachrimae (tears), published in 1604. His
melancholy was part of the image he projected on to the world, and in an
autograph book he signed himself ‘Jo: dolandi de Lachrimae’. The
lachrymose Pavan is placed here among four jollier pieces from the same

The rest of the disc features further pieces from the latter part of the 16th
century all taken from a 2-LP set entitled Instruments of the Middle ages and
Renaissance. Anthony Holborne was, like Dowland, a skilled lutenist and
also produced a set of ensemble dances [30], anticipating Dowland by five
years. The earliest of the remaining pieces is a harpsichord piece on the
same bass as Greensleeves [31]. Orlando sleepeth [32] sounds more like a
stage direction than a title, and may relate to a play derived from Ariosto’s
Orlando furioso. Byrd died in 1623, two and a half years before Dowland,
but was of an older generation and his music has a sobriety and restraint that
contrasts with Dowland’s more overt musical expression, though Byrd gives
powerful voice to the feelings of the English catholic community, outsiders in
their own land. The Fantasy [33] survived without its treble part, which was
written by the leading practical musicologist of the 1960s, Thurston Dart.
The disc ends with another piece whose title the listener must explain for
himself, an almain for two viols from Thomas Ford’s Musicke of Sundrie
Kindes of 1607.

© Clifford Bartlett 2004


David Munrow (1942-1976) studied English literature at Cambridge and
spent a while in South America, where he became fascinated by native
wind instruments. Even as a student he was a brilliant recorder player,
and during the 1960s he extended his expertise to a wide range of early
wind instruments. He established his Early Music Consort in 1967 and
much of his later work was based round this ensemble, with James
Bowman (countertenor), Oliver Brookes (viol), Christopher Hogwood
(keyboard and percussion) and James Tyler (lute). His infectious
enthusiasm and skilful programming brought him an immense following.
He recorded a rather wider repertoire than he could take on tour with the
consort (it ranged from the 12th to the 18th century, as well as
contemporary music written for him). His last recording, The Art of the
Netherlands, showed him moving away from primarily instrumental
music to a choral repertoire that he particularly loved.

Everything Munow did was meticulously planned and researched.
His own knowledge and experience was vast, extending far beyond the
sort of music the public associated with him. This became apparent in his
radio programme Pied Piper, broadcast four times a week, ostensibly
intended for younger listeners but fascinating to all ages for its range of
topics and engaging presentation. In this, as in everything he did, his
tremendous zest and vitality made his death all the more a shock.
Perhaps the following reminiscences will give some idea of his
character. I first met David in the mid-1960s, before he began his career.
We were both enjoying a holiday at the Dartington Summer School of
Music and our common interest in early music led to a week of intensive
talking, arguing, drinking and listening to music. Although subsequently
we did not see a lot of each other, when we did meet we immediately
dropped back into the same easy relationship. Later, when he ran
ensemble classes at the summer school, I was continually amazed at his
remarkable memory. When auditioning prospective participants, he could
remember the abilities of those he had heard for only a minute or so the
previous year. He wasn’t just being polite if he complimented them on
their improvement: his private comments to me implied that he really had

In 1969 he was appointed Professor of Recorder at the Royal
Academy of Music. In practice, this meant that he turned up once a week
and organised some sort of music-making with the tiny group of students
who were interested in early music. I used to creep out from my job in
the library, and we were also joined by a promising student from the
Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Philip Pickett. On his first day,
David expected me to join him for lunch. When I told him that I was not
entitled to use the professors’ dining room, he insisted on using the
students’ canteen and subsequently always ate there.

One Wednesday in May 1976, he phoned me in my office (I was
now at the BBC) and asked if I would compile a list of editions to include
in the notes for his next record set. I agreed, but was puzzled: why wasn’t
he doing it himself? I was working at it on the following Saturday when it
was announced on the radio that he had died. The fact that he committed
suicide was only divulged later; but it was obvious that he had known
that he would not have time to finish the work necessary for the recording
and did not want to leave anything incomplete. Everything he did he did
with a thorough professionalism: the panache of his performance was
underlaid by an infinite capacity for attending to detail.

© Clifford Bartlett, 1996

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