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The Hilliard Ensemble: Walter Frye (APE)

The Hilliard Ensemble: Walter Frye (APE)
The Hilliard Ensemble: Walter Frye (APE)

Composer: Walter Frye
Performer: The Hilliard Ensemble
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Ecm
Size: 219 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

01. Trinitatis Dies
02. Missa Flos Regalis – Gloria
03. Salve Virgo
04. Missa Flos Regalis – Credo
05. O Florens Rosa
06. Missa Flos Regalis – Sanctus
0 7. Missa Flos Regalis – Agnus dei
08. Glogauer Liederbuch: Ave Regina
09. Codex Specialnik: Ave Regina
10. Sospitati Dedit
11. Tout a par moy
12. So ys emprentid
13. Myn Hertis Lust
14. Alas, Alas

…and a similar thing could be said about many of the pioneering English musicians of the 15th century including Walter Frye, though the ravages of the Reformation had not a little to do with this. We know little about the man himself, but his music survives almost entirely in widespread continental sources, found from Palermo to Prague, indicative of the breadth of admiration for his work. In particular the motet “Ave Regina” is found in no less than fourteen manuscripts (two different versions, a three voice and an extended four voice version presumably not of Frye’s original composition, appear on this disc), and music from it even appears in three (perhaps even four) 15th century paintings.

Performed here are a number of motets, the mass Ordinaries from the Missa Flos Regalis and some secular pieces. Hilliard Ensemble member (at the time) John Potter in the booklet notes says that Frye is sometimes seen as a “transitional composer stylistically between the medieval austerity of Dunstable and the developed counterpoint of Josquin and Isaac”, but hopes that “this record will show him as something more than that”, an aim in which I think this recording truly succeeds. Perhaps heretically I have never held the Hilliard Ensemble amongst my absolute favourite early music ensembles, but here the distinctive individual voices of the quartet of countertenor David James, tenors Rogers Covey-Crump & John Potter and baritone Gordon Jones combine so perfectly creating hypnotic enthralling waves of sound washing over the listener. I’d like to think that Frye himself would thoroughly approve.

The booklet, quite unusually for a Hilliard Ensemble disc, has quite a few pages of notes, firstly from Potter and also a short essay on the “contenance angloise” by Uwe Schweikert. Sung texts are supplied in Latin only.

Incidentally Frye’s work can also be found on Frye: Northerne Wynde plus, alongside other composers, on Brussels 5557 and A Marriage of England and Burgundy.

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