ROGERS COVEY-CRUMP tenor
STEVEN HARROLD tenor
GORDON JONES baritone
Hilliard Ensemble, founded in 1974 and named after the British miniaturist
painter Nicholas Hilliard, is one of the world's finest vocal chamber ensembles.
It is unrivalled for its formidable reputation in the fields of both old and new
music. Its distinctive style and highly developed musicianship engage the
listener as much in medieval and renaissance repertoire as in works specially
written for the group by living composers.
group's standing as an early music ensemble dates from the 1980s with its series
of successful recordings for EMI (many of which have now been re-released on
Virgin) and its own mail-order record label hilliard LIVE, now available on the
Coro label; but from the start it has paid equal attention to new music. The
1988 recording of Arvo Pärt's Passio began a fruitful relationship with both
Pärt and the Munich-based record company ECM, and was followed by their
recording of Pärt's Litany . The group has recently commissioned other composers
from the Baltic States , including Veljo Tormis and Erkki-Sven Tüür, adding to a
rich repertoire of new music from Gavin Bryars, Heinz Holliger, John Casken,
James MacMillan, Elena Firsova and many others.
addition to many a cappella discs, collaborations for ECM include most notably
Officium and Mnemosyne with the Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek. The fall,
Officium Novum will be released on ECM – the latest in this collaboration. The
disc Morimur with the German Baroque violinist Christoph Poppen and soprano
Monika Mauch was based on the research of Prof. Helga Thoene. It is a unique
interweaving of Bach's Partita in D minor for solo violin with a selection of
Chorale verses crowned by the epic Ciaconna , in which instrumentalist and
vocalists are united.
group continues in its quest to forge relationships with living composers, often
in an orchestral context. In 1999, they premiered Miroirs des Temps by Unsuk
Chin with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Kent Nagano. In the same year,
James MacMillan's Quickening, commissioned jointly by the BBC and the
Philadelphia Orchestra, was premiered at the BBC Proms. With Lorin Maazel and
the New York Philharmonic, they performed the world premiere of Stephen Hartke's
3 rd Symphony and they recently collaborated with the Munich Chamber Orchestra
with a new work by Erkki-Sven Tüür. In 2007 they joined forces with the Dresden
Philharmonic Orchestra to premiere Nunc Dimittis by the Russian composer
Alexander Raskatov, also recording this for ECM.
new development for the group began in August 2008 with the premiere at the
Edinburgh International Festival of a music theatre project written by Heiner
Goebbels in a production by the Th éâ tre Vidy, Lausanne : I went to the house
but did not enter . This has subsequently been presented throughout Europe and
This fall The Hilliard Ensemble returns to Lincoln Center in New York to
showcase their collaboration with saxophonist Jan Garbarek, and in a 2nd concert
with Icelandic alt-rock group Sigur Ros, in a piece created especially for The
Hililard Ensemble by the Icelanders.
Hilliard Ensemble quotes
The Rolls-Royce of vocal
Stephen Hartke, composer
The Hilliard Ensemble does
ancient music better than just about anyone now.
Kenneth LaFave, Arizona Republic, May 2, 2004
Few vocal groups can be
recognized within a single bar. The Hilliard Ensemble are one. Their sound is
not contrived, their distinctive character having developed organically from
their collective musicianship.
Matthew Power, Gramophone, May 2004
The astounding melding of the
voices of David James, Rogers Covey-Crump, Steven Harrold and Gordon Jones is
simply that, astounding, other-worldly. The Hilliard Ensemble are without a
doubt one of the finest vocal ensembles in the world.
Alan Conter, The Globe and Mail, March 6, 2003
Their performance was dazzling.
The Hilliards managed flawless musicianship from the minute they stepped on the
stage to the minute they left. There was not a single note out of tune, not one
breath out of place, no voice ever stuck out, sang too loud or too soft. Every
syllable was clearly articulated. They were perfect.
Tom Czerwinski, The Emory Wheel (Atlanta, GA), April 23,
(Morimur at Spivey Hall April 18, 2004)
The five Hilliard singers render
these pieces beautifully, in the smoothly blended sound that has become the
Allan Kozinn, The New York Times, June 13, 2004
The Hilliard Ensemble remain
peerless in this repertoire and bring their customary vocal purity and tonal
refinement to this music.
Lawrence A. Johnson, Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL),
May 21, 2004
results are magnificent, marked by a combination of technical precision and
expressive generosity. The various melodies, each carrying its own poetic
imagery, cross and blend exquisitely, and the almost-extravagant sentimentality
comes across in piquant contrast to the music's structural ingenuity.
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, April 18, 2004
It is a credit to both ECM’s
knowledge of its audience and The Hilliard’s musicianship that they can
confidently release a disc of esoteric 14th- century motets by
Machaut. The result is a rich discovery, imbued with a unique dynamic evolved
over three decades.
Matthew Power, Gramophone, May 2004
This is a hypnotic, stupendous
Alan Rich, LA Weekly, April 22, 2004
Few ensembles have attracted the
fervent devotion that England's Hilliard Ensemble has garnered over the last 30
years. Freely traversing early and new music, the Hilliards … have consistently
earned praise for their gleaming tone, insightful scholarship and adventurous
These singers burn brightly in
this music, adding yet more luster to an already distinguished reputation.
Anastasia Tsioulcas, Time Out New York, April 22/29, 2004
The five male voices of the
Hilliard Ensemble evoke the aura of a faraway time and place as they perform the
difficult music with purity of sound and serenity of spirit.
Wilma Salisbury, (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, April 11, 2004
The performances are of a truly
mandarin refinement. Here are the Hilliard Ensemble with goodness knows how many
combined years of experience performing this kind of music in public; they are
not just on the top of their form but also constantly showing the fruits of that
David Fallows, Gramophone (UK), May 2004
#1 in "The Year in Classical
Music; The Critic's Choices"
James R. Oestreich, The New York Times, December 23, 2001
is performed at the highest level. The performances are everywhere engaging and
at times truly sublime.
James R. Oestreich, The New York Times, December 2, 2001
Review | Hilliard Ensemble
Some Austere and Layered Sounds
of the Renaissance
Hilliard Ensemble has lately been exploring the music of the Flemish composer
Nicolas Gombert. His music — in particular, his Missa Media Vita and some of his
sacred motets — is the subject of the ensemble's latest recording for ECM, and
on Sunday afternoon the group sang most of the Mass, a few motets, and pieces by
Josquin and Dufay as part of the Music Before 1800 series at Corpus Christi
a fascinating character. He was born around 1495, reportedly studied with
Josquin and thrived in the Spanish chapel of Emperor Charles V until 1540, when
he was sentenced to shipboard labor for interfering with one of the choirboys.
He was apparently pardoned and spent his last years as a canon at Tournai
Josquin's, his music is seamless and vibrantly contrapuntal, an effect created
by staggered vocal entrances and lines that remain entirely independent until a
work's final phrase, when they suddenly coalesce in a rich harmony. More than
Josquin, though, Gombert preferred dark timbres, and the Hilliard has added a
bass-baritone (Robert Macdonald) to capture that shift.
Gombert CD, the group sings the Mass with motets interposed. They did the same
on Sunday, singing all but the Credo of the Mass, and drawing on a somewhat
different motet repertory. A group of pieces from a 12th-century manuscript
found at the abbey of St. Martial de Limoges revived an early form of polyphony
in which the voices remained tethered together rhythmically, and which sounded
strikingly primitive beside Gombert's obsessive counterpoint. And although
Gombert was meant to be the composer of the day, two Josquin works — the serene
"Tu solus qui facis mirabilia" and a shapely, passionate setting of David's
lament for Saul and Jonathan, "Planxit autem David" — proved the most memorable
The Hilliard Ensemble's sound,
as always, was beautifully blended and subtly shaped,
and in this church's acoustic, which is drier than some, it was possible to
focus on the individual vocal textures within that blend, an instructive
experience typically lost in more ambient settings.
the Hilliard Ensemble
BY LLOYD SCHWARTZ
THE BOSTON EARLY MUSIC FESTIVAL
presented England’s renowned Hilliard Ensemble in a program of 15th-century
music by Guillaume Dufay and Josquin des Prés at Cambridge’s reverberant St.
Paul Church. This quartet — countertenor David James, tenors Rogers Covey-Crump
and Steven Harrold, and dour baritone Gordon Jones — have an impeccable
sense of pitch and a human quality that many early-music singers seem to avoid. They sing
less like angels than like people in the throes of profound devotion. Dufay’s
exquisite Se la face ay pale Mass (using a theme he’d composed for a love
ballade), with its overlapping waves of æthereal sound, was interspersed with
Josquin’s earthier, more richly textured, more directly emotional Bible settings
(the Death of Jonathan and Saul — "How are the mighty fallen") and prayers (a
heartbreakingly slow Ave Maria). The Hilliards are also admired for their
contemporary music. Maybe that’s one reason they never forget they’re singing
The Best Classical CD's of 2004
December 12, 2004
(ECM New Series)
This 14th-century poet and composer wrote music whose spare and
haunting beauty can at first seem disorienting to modern ears. These motets, in
a sumptuous performance by the Hilliard Ensemble, make a wonderful introduction,
with their undulating polyphony, shivery dissonances and supple vocal lines,
each built around its own poetic text. JEREMY EICHLER
June 13, 2004
Hilliard Ensemble. ECM
New Series 472 400-2; CD.
FOR all the
strenuous and varied efforts of period-instrument groups and specialized choirs
over the last two decades, the music of the 14th-century French composer
Guillaume de Machaut has made relatively little headway. This is odd in a
personality-driven time, for Machaut essentially invented the notion of the
composer as name brand.
predecessors had generally worked anonymously, but Machaut insistently affixed
his name to his works, and he spent much of his last decade collecting his
scores (and poetry) into an authoritative edition. His "Messe de Notre Dame,"
the first complete Mass by a known composer, has guaranteed him a place in music
history books. Recordings of the Mass are infrequent, and albums drawn from
other corners of Machaut's copious output are rarer still. The Hilliard Ensemble
helps to redress that neglect with a new selection of 18 motets, secular and
sacred songs, in French and Latin.
exquisite works, structurally unlike the polyphonic vocal works familiar since
the Renaissance. Each voice in the fabric has its own text, but the basis and
the emotional core of each work is the tenor: usually a brief plainchant melody
on a minimal text (sometimes only one word), repeated throughout. Two higher
voices — the motetus and triplum, each with its own text — are more expansive.
The counterpoint, in other words, is not only musical but also poetic. And the
deep emotions evoked in these love songs and devotional texts are mirrored in
the play of consonance and dissonance.
singers render these pieces beautifully, in the smoothly blended sound that has
become the ensemble's trademark.
But Machaut fanciers may bristle at that description.
thinking in Machaut performance, or at least one school of it, is that vocal
production during the composer's time was notably earthier and more rough-hewn
than the current finely polished norm. A superb example of that approach can be
heard in a recording of the "Messe de Notre Dame" by Marcel Pérès and Ensemble
Organum on Harmonia Mundi France.
But the art of
performing Machaut lies in making conjecture sound convincing. The conjecture
the Hilliard singers provide has less to do with historical re-creation than
with bringing this marriage of text and music to life for listeners attuned to
modern notions of tone. As it happens, the transposition works extremely well.
Posted on Thu, May. 08, 2003
Wild-hare ``Morimur'' convinces the heart if not the mind
By PAUL HORSLEY
The Kansas City Star
"Morimur" is a
70-minute concert that attempts to show that Bach had certain Lutheran chorales
tunes in mind when composing his Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin.
fragments or numerical patterns of these tunes into the violin texture --
according to the theory hatched by German scholar Helga Thoene -- thus imbuing
it with hidden meanings relating to faith, death and redemption.
On Wednesday, the
renowned musicians who recorded "Morimur" for the ECM New Series label -- German
violinist Christoph Poppen and the four-voice Hilliard Ensemble -- performed it
at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Lenexa.
It's hard to
explain why this odd mixture works, but it does. In concert, "Morimur" is even
more powerful than it is on the Grammy award-winning disc. On Wednesday, the
audience seemed riveted. If at the end we still had doubts about the theories
that spawned "Morimur," the sheer beauty of the music won our hearts.
Here's how it
works: the violinist plays the D-minor Partita, and the singers insert a chorale
between each movement. After eight more chorales are sung, the famous Chaconne
is played a second time with the chorale tunes sung where they (supposedly) fit
into the texture.
ordinarily think of hymns as something you want to sit and listen to in concert,
but the Hilliards' ravishing, diamond-clear sound made these chorales seem as
bracing as any of Bach's more ambitious works.
studied rendering of the D-minor Partita was continuously engaging. One was
drawn to his natural feel for rubato (rhythmic give-and-take) and to his
tenacious rhythmic sense.
appropriately skittish in the Courante and dignified in the Sarabande. His
Chaconne was compelling in unconventional ways, and to these ears one of the
more distinguished renderings of this piece one can hear today.
At times we wished
he'd brought his Baroque violin, which he plays on the CD. On the "modern"
violin the earlier movements of the suite took on a more languid mood. At times
there is a sort of austerity about his playing -- in the Chaconne's rapid
arpeggiated passages, for instance -- and on Wednesday this rigor jousted in
interesting ways with what is obviously a passionate basic temperament.
The big, new-ish
Holy Trinity Church was not an ideal space for the venture, a tad dry and with a
geometrically complex ceiling that sent echoes bouncing off into odd corners to
either side of the altar.
"Morimur" was a hit anyway, as good as anything I heard all
Sounds that astound
Thursday, Mar. 6, 2003
By ALAN CONTER
Special to The Globe and Mail
At Pollack Hall
in Montreal on Tuesday
Tuesday evening a
friend ventured what probably many in the hall were thinking -- that coming into
the concert he had assumed that the extraordinary sounds heard on Hilliard
Ensemble ECM recordings must include some fancy digital treatment. But no, the
astounding melding of the voices of David James, Rogers Covey-Crump, Steven
Harrold and Gordon Jones is simply that, astounding, other-worldly.
Ensemble, named for the English miniaturist painter Nicholas Hilliard
(1547-1619), are without doubt one of the finest vocal ensembles in the world.
Since their founding in 1974 they've built an enviable reputation in both the
New Music and Old Music worlds. A lot of very fine music has been created for
them, from composers such as Gavin Bryars, John Casken, James McMillan and, of
course, Arvo Part. Over the past decade or so they've become somewhat renowned
for their singing of songs of the Baltic region.
They are featured
guests at the Montréal Nouvelles Musiques festival and on Tuesday evening they
performed eight short pieces by eight contemporary composers, while on Wednesday
they performed the North American premiere of Dutch composer Cornelis de Bondt's
performance was an eclectic and mostly, though not entirely, pleasing mix. The
concert began with Piers Hellawell's The Hilliard Songbook. The work is
redolent of early English musical motifs and is a lovely showcase for the
remarkable individual and combined voices of all four men.
This was followed
by the veteran Swiss composer Rudolf Kelterborn's Four Sonnets for Four
Voices. While Kelterborn may enjoy a stellar academic reputation, the
Four Sonnets suffers from that academic obsession with intricacy that
ultimately becomes tedious to listen to and, one suspects, not a whole lot of
fun to perform.
Relief was not long
coming. Elizabeth Liddle, a Scottish composer who lived in Vancouver for a
while, offered a delightful work entitled Whale Rant,which she claims to
have composed while "obsessed" with Melville's Moby Dick. Light and dark
shift in language and tonal colour and bump up against each other in a very fine
work that evocative of a Presbyterian hymnal.
Then came the world
premiere of José Evangelista's Songs of Innocence and of Experience,based
on William Blake's poetry. Evangelista has an innate sense of the loveliness of
the human voice. With the seven songs of this cycle he transports us through a
shifting tapestry of musical colours and textured harmonies on four-note
sonorities that flow into heterophony.
intermission it was time for the world premiere of Torontonian Peter
Steenhuisen's Les enfants éternels des gens désespérés. Steenhuisen takes
an excerpt of Christian Bok's fabulous Eunoia,a piece that uses only the
vowel "e" in a descent into hell, full of hexes. While the singers are given
separate and at times colliding lines to sing, the hallucinatory setting is
augmented by taped electro-acoustic sources such as recordings of the Afghani
instrument the sorna. The canonic singing of the Hilliards didn't quite
seem to marry as fruitfully with the electro-acoustic material as one might have
wished. The jarring effect, while perhaps in part intentional, seemed not
entirely satisfactory. It was if one was listening to two too-separate
Joanna Metcalf, an
American composer, carried the audience to the poetry of Dante with a piece
that, like the Hellawell and Evangelista, evoked earlier musical forms. A lovely
Arvo Part's And
one of the Pharisees was next, using excerpts of the Gospel of St. Luke. The
Hilliard's relationship with Part began in 1988 and this latest work shows the
intimate connection with the composer. This was an achingly beautiful
performance, even for those who might have heard just about enough of the
composer that FM radio loves.
The final work was by the Russian-German composer, Alexander
Raskatov. It is a devotional piece whose music uses the tonal shifts of the
Eastern Orthodox liturgical tradition. After the austere Part, it seemed an
almost academic pursuit of intricacy. Fine, technical singing, some intriguing
moments. But it demanded too much concentration when luxuriating in the earlier
sublime moments would have sufficed.
By MATTHEW ERIKSON
Hartford Courant Staff Writer
February 23 2003
The following review is reprinted from Saturday's late editions.
The Hilliard Ensemble, a world-renowned a cappella quartet, performed the
sacred, soul-soothing strains of early Renaissance composers Dufay and Josquin
at Trinity College Chapel Friday night.
Founded in 1974-years before a cappella groups such as Chanticleer or The King's
Singers had their start-the British-based group has built its sizable reputation
on highly engaging performances of old and new vocal repertoire. Friday it
turned its attention to the timeless polyphony of the 15th century with
interludes of earlier church music.
The evening's result was similar to the experience of visiting an ancient
European cathedral for the first time: awe-inspiring, edifying, and amazingly
No doubt the Gothic arches, ornate decor and resonant acoustics of Trinity's
chapel added to the impression, as did the sprinkling of sections of Dufay's
Mass "Se la face ay pale" throughout the performance. The evening began with the
Mass' "Kyrie" and closed with its "Agnus Dei." At times it made applauding these
fine and singular musicians more than a little awkward.
Dufay's Mass assimilates the best of the Italian, Flemish and French musical
elements of his time: weaving independent melodic lines that move elegantly from
bursting activity to repose. Expressive, though never emoting, the musichad a
The Josquin motets performed by the Hilliard Ensemble demonstrated a richer
range of vocal color and vertical sonority. From the start of the motet "Tu
solus qui facis mirabilia" to its end, the voices of the group coalesced
Other highlights included the heart-rending "Ave Maria," which reached back and
forth from canonical to melodic textures. Tenor Steven Harrold gave a solo of
early chant that had the beauty and scope of an operatic aria. The group came
together in the Josquin motet "O bone et dulcissime Iesu," singing with
distinctive delicacy, technical control and brilliant balance.
April 26, 2002
Performing Arts Chicago's 'Morimur' at St. James Cathedral
By John von Rhein
dabbled in musical cryptograms for centuries. Now, it would appear that Johann
Sebastian Bach was the greatest cryptographer of them all.
In 1994, the German
Bach scholar Helga Thoene published a paper arguing that a number of the
chorales Bach had written for his cantatas were implied or alluded to in the
famous Chaconne from his D-minor Partita for solo violin. The chaconne, she
believes, is an elaborately encoded epitaph to Bach's first wife, Maria Barbara.
based on numerological clues left behind by the composer, intrigued the German
violinist Christoph Poppen. He persuaded Manfred Eicher, the ever-visionary
producer of ECM Records, to record Thoene's arrangement of the Chaconne
incorporating the encrypted chorales. Eicher brought the four-voice Hilliard
Ensemble into the project, and the result was an adventure in speculative
musicology called "Morimur."
Their ECM disc of
that name shot to the top of the charts upon its release late last year. "Morimur"
struck a sympathetic chord with many listeners at a time of national unease and
mourning. The CD's sleeper success produced a spinoff tour that brought Poppen
and the Hilliards to Chicago's St. James Cathedral Thursday under the auspices
of Performing Arts Chicago.
one was willing to give the scholarly theories behind it, the 70-minute
concert made for an absorbing, uniquely moving experience.
format of the recording, "Morimur" (the title, "We die," comes from a Latin
epitaph, "We die in Christ") interspersed the partita's five movements with the
Lutheran chorales Bach is thought to have imbedded in them. The 14-minute
Chaconne was played twice — in the solo version and also in Thoene's arrangement
for violin and voices singing rhythmically altered versions of the chorales.
It would take
another musicologist to fathom the arcane evidence Thoene has amassed to support
her contentions. Her arguments are convincing but impossible to prove. Is this
really what went on in Bach's mind when he was writing the solo violin works? We
can never know for sure. On the other hand, decoding Bach's secret language is
no mere scholarly exercise if it takes us on so rewarding a musical and
music of consolation from across the centuries, presented with enormous skill
and deep devotion. A superb, stylish violinist, Poppen shaped Bach's long
undulating lines from the inside out. Whether plain or adorned with vocal
polyphony, his playing of the Chaconne took on a rapt, ethereal beauty. The
Hilliards — Monica Mauch, David James, Steven Harrold and Gordon Jones — intoned
the chorales with pure, precise, glowing tone. Bach's music came alive,
Ensemble has quite an active repertoire. Their own website (click
here) will give you what is currently being offered and I recommend that you
head there. The programs fall into three categories:
These can include
concentrations on composers Machaut, Lassus, Josquin, Dufay, and others. The
ensemble can tailor programs as needed (given enough advance time).
Mixed Early &
These programs are
a riot, and the audience leaves not knowing what is new and what is old – just
what the Hilliards want. The Hilliards structure these not in sets by the same
composer, but in contrasting pieces side by side. Intellectually great! Not
for every audience.
(this is only an
example – it is not a currently available program)
From Russia, the USA and Southern Europe,
Il nome del bel
fior: Maria I Joanne Metcalf
Il nome del bel
fior: Maria II Joanne Metcalf
Audi dulcis amica
mea Jacquet de Mantua
Il nome del bel
fior Joanne Metcalf
There is no rose of
such virtue anon C15
Alnight by the rose
Sibyllarum Orlando di Lasso
Ecce dies venient
Ecce dies nigras.
Wreath of Stone
Dame de qui toute
ma joie Guillaume de Machaut
(The above is only an example of a type of program. It is not
Bach Motets and
Pärt – soon to be an album for ECM, Bach’s motets (2 sopranos, alto, 2 tenors,
bass and organ) will be paired with chamber works, some a cappella and
some with organ, by Pärt.
Ensemble in collaboration with Christoph Poppen performing Bach's D minor
Partita and with related chorales, in Helga Thoene's realization.
Works for The
Hilliard Ensemble with orchestra or instrumental ensemble -
Cornelis de Bondt -
Bloed, Stephen Hartke - Titluli, Unsuk Chin - Miroir des Temps, James MacMillan
- Quickening, Piers Hellawell - The Pear Tree of Nicostratus, Arvo Pärt -
Litany, Passio, Miserere. Forthcoming works by Stephen Hartke, Alexander
Raskatov and Terje Rypdal.
& Biased Comments About The Artist
Virtuosity is most
commonly associated with the sizzle of a violinist’s flurry of notes. The
Hilliards offer another kind. It’s a “low temperature” virtuosity that you hear
in the glow of four voices beautifully tuned and balanced, emerging out of
silence. This ensemble, without resorting to any tuning reference, does just
that. Their program may jump from a barely tonal contemporary piece to a
hyper-tonal motet – and they emerge time and again in beautiful consonance.
It’s really something, and it is one reason why the ensemble is so revered by
choral ensembles. Of course tuning is a technical issue, but without mastering
it, very little music can be made.
Presenter will please provide:
4 chairs & 4 music
stands with solid tops, 2 hours rehearsal in space on day of concert; and during
the rehearsal & concert please provide 3 quarts of mineral water, glasses,
freshly-brewed coffee with cups.