Richard Dering: Motets and Anthems

transcribed and edited by Jonathan P. Wainwright.
(Music Britannica, 98).
Stainer & Bell, 2015.
xxxviii + 135pp, £88.00.

Dering first appears in modern editions in Consort Songs (MB 22, 1667) with City Cries and Country Cries. His Secular Vocal Music (MB 25, 1969), edited by Peter Platt, contains 20 Canzonette a3 and 24 a4, two volumes published by Phalèse in 1620. The Italian MS pieces from UK MS sources are mostly in three parts. It ends with a trio and a sextet in English. My impression is that these are under-sung. Wainwright’s first volume of Dering (MB 87, 2008) contains chiefly music that survived long after Dering’s death: Playford’s Cantica Sacra 1662 and The Second Sett 1674. The 1662 set has 14 sacred songs for two voices and and ten for three (all with continuo); the 1674 set has 8 duets for treble or tenor, bass & Bc. There are a dozen more from MS sources and 12 incomplete works. Ardens est cor meum appears differently as the first and the last item in the volume. There is just one volume from Early English Church Music (15, 1974), Cantica Sacra a6, 1618. Platt was editor, but overdid the transposition with keys of G, D and A – the notational practice of sharp signatures didn’t exist in Dering’s period.

The main contents of MB 98 are Cantiones Sacrae quinque vocum cum basso continuo ad organum. That contains 18 Latin pieces, many with familiar texts, and is followed by two English translations, Lord thou art worthy (19) and Therefore with Angels (20), both based on the O nomen Jesu, the second part of no. 1. The volume ends with three anthems: Almighty God which through thy only-begotten Son (21), And the King was moved (22) and Unto thee O Lord (23, perhaps by Wilkinson).

Jonathan Wainwright’s editorial remarks and practice are sensible. I’ve known him since he called on me to discuss what his doctorate should be, and I’ve been impressed by him for something like 30 years. The addition of slashed slurs to indicate where a note has two or more letters is hardly necessary since the words are clearly spaced. I’m not entirely convinced that repeated accidentals in a bar can be omitted: I prefer the system of repeating accidentals unless consecutive – it’s clearer. It also seems unnecessary to leave the original mensuration sign – 4/2 looks odd!

The pitches present a problem – and it is easier to solve performance if the compass of each part is shown. The current assumption of standard pitch is about three quarters of a tone higher, though it can be sung either a semitone or a tone above. High-pitch clefs (nos 5 & 10-15) in theory should be a fifth or thereabouts lower. But care needs to be taken when a continuo organ is necessary: omitting it is regrettable, partly for the backing, but also for the occasional isolated organ chords.

The music itself is impressive, though features are perhaps a little similar. I think on the whole that I’d prefer to hear anthologies of Dering rather than complete Dering record­ings. MB scores are rather large to read and expensive to buy: the A4 compromise would need minimal change of the adjustment apart from narrower edges – or does Stainer and Bell reprint individual pieces thus?

Clifford Bartlett