Without the brilliant Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (look here http://bottlesandbooks.skynetblogs.be/archive/2013/02/16/... for my comments on them) this CD would probably not exist. And if I would not have read the books I would probably not have bought it. But Hilary Mantel created such a vivid picture of Henry VIII that this cd looked to me as a unique opportunity to hear his "voice" and to hear the music he listened too, and I couldn't resist.
Henry VIII, or King Harry, was the perfect example of the Renaissance Prince. He hunted, he played (and wrote) music, he was extremely interested in theology and even wrote a book about it himself, was interested in science, wrestled, looked good, had his friends amongst the nobles, but chose ordinary people like Cromwell as advisor, loved art, held masquerades and balls (when he was young) and was extremely aware of his title and his rights but loved contacts with ordinary people. In our 21st century eyes he was also a ruthless man, an irresponsible spendthrift and a bad general, but certainly in the first decades of his life he was also loved and cherished by many of his people and was quite popular.
It is certain he loved music very much. He employed 25 singers and instrumentalists in The King's Musick, mainly playing secular music, and 44 in the Chapel Royal, for liturgical music. He played some instruments well, wrote some songs like Pastime with Good Company or Helas Madame, and invited musicians from all over the world to England. Some were Dutch, like the van Wilder's, some came from Venice or Milan, and some were Sephardic jews, expelled by the Inquisition from Spain and Portugal. When he died he possessed "19 viols, 20 regals, 14 virginals, 2 clavichords, 26 lutes, 7 citterns, 5 cornamuses, 15 shawns, 10 sackbuts, 65 flutes and 154 recorders."
The cd contains songs by Henry himself, but also music written by contemporaries like the classic England be Glad, a propaganda song for his French Wars, or Blow thy Horn, Hunter, written for him William Cornysh. The song that touched me the most was Green Groweth the Holly, a song for Christmas that Henry wrote himself and very probably performed for his intimate cercle, as he was also a man who loved friends and family life. For me this music made him even more alive, and it fuelled my imagination even more. if you love Hilary Mantel's books you should listen to it, and you will understand what I mean.
The Capella de la Torre gathers together musicians who specialised in historical music and its performance. In medieval times ensembles of musicians playing wind instruments often performed from balconies or towers and in Spain you find many Torres de los Ministriles that survived. This is a beautiful cd, a mix of history and music, and it gave me great joy.
England be glad !
Pluck up thy lustry heart !
Help now thy king and take his part
Against the French men in the field to fight
In the quarrel of the church and in the right
With spears and shields on goodly horses light
Bows and arrows to put the all to fight. Help now thy King !
For more information bout the ensemble, see www.capella-de-la-torre.de