Henry Lawes: Sacred Music

Henry Lawes Sacred Music EC61

Early English Church Music Volume 61
Transcribed and edited by Jonathan Wainwright
xxxviii+176pp. £75
ISBN: 9780852499610 ISMN: 9790220225987

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This heavy and handsomely bound book contains all of Lawes’ known sacred music: five anthems (three of which are fragmentary), five “symphony anthems” (don’t get excited – the symphonies are reduced to organ accompaniment), 29 devotional anthems for 2 sopranos, bass and continuo, seven “sacred songs” for soprano and continuo, 24 metrical psalms for soprano and bass (here with the text of the opening verse printed below the upper voice and the remaining verses as poetic stanzas below), three Latin motets (Laudate Dominum for 2 sopranos, bass and continuo, Predicate in gentibus for bass and continuo, and Quis sicut Dominus Deus noster for soprano, bass and continuo), three rounds for three voices and the texts of eleven pieces that are known to have been lost. An appendix has Matthew Camidge’s 1789 re-working of the psalm tunes.

As well as this hugely generous amount of music, you get a LOT of musicology; there’s a lengthy introduction to Henry Lawes and his music, then an exhaustive list not only of the sources but also articles that have already explored them in depth, and a comprehensive bibliography. Then, each subsection of the book (essential the seven categories I described above) has its own introduction along with detailed critical notes. The music is beautifully laid out. The original orthography of the texts is retained. I am not a great fan of “dashed bar marks” in vocal music as I find it quite difficult at a glance to see where they fall. Nor do ficta accidentals above repeated notes of the same pitch strike me as particularly useful. That said, these are very, very minor criticisms. Henry Lawes’ music deserves to be much more widely known and this beautiful book makes it readily accessible.

Brian Clark