Music of Robert Parsons
Voces Cantabile / Barnaby Smith
Naxos Records, 8.570451
- First Great Service
- Responds for the Dead (Latin Service)
After my recent acquisition of the Gabrieli Consort's Road to Paradise, I searched through my music collection for other works by the little-known Robert Parsons. His five-voice Ave Maria culminates with an 80 second Amen that is the most glorious bit of music from the Renaissance I've ever heard. At least as it's presented to us by McCreesh & Company. And it turns out to be the only piece by Parsons in my whole collection.
So I searched online a bit for more of Robert Parsons, about whom quite little is known. The following is the entirety of Wikipedia's entry on him:
My favorite recording label, Naxos, has the only all-Parsons release I was able to find, a 2007 issue featuring the choir Voces Cantabile, under the baton of Barnaby Smith. Formed in 2003 of ex-choristers from Westminster Abbey, here is yet another young London-based choir taking advantage of the country's wonderfully rich choral heritage.
Robert Parsons (c. 1535 - January 1572) was an English composer.
Although little is known about the life of Robert Parsons, it is likely that in his youth he was a choir boy, as until 1561 he was an assistant to Richard Bower, Master of the Children Choristers of the Chapel Royal.
Parsons was appointed Gentleman of the Chapel Royal on 17 October 1563. His work consisted of a number of sacred and secular vocal compositions, including his Ave Maria, as well as some instrumental pieces. He is believed to have died in January 1572 when he fell into the then swollen River Trent and was drowned. He may have been a teacher of, or at least an influence on, William Byrd at Lincoln Cathedral. Byrd succeeded him as Gentleman of the Chapel Royal.
While I'm thrilled to find more of this composer, these performances don't quite reach the top-shelf level of the Gabrieli Consort (as is perhaps to be expected from such a young ensemble). The choir doesn't blend to the same ethereal degree, and they don't achieve the confident pitch solidity, especially in what seem like a couple less-than-ideal edits where the choir's pitch changes suddenly and noticeably. Pitch is a particularly sticky point for me, and not everyone may object to the same degree.
But for that, though, it's a fine, respectable effort, and it fills a void in the recorded repertoire of another of England's shining Tudor lights.