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A Musick Strange Anthems and devotional songs by George Jeffreys


Yvonne Seymour, Carol Smith: soprano
Joseph Cornwell, Paul Elliott, Richard Morton: tenor
Stephen Varcoe, bass
Peter Seymour, organ
Mark Caudle, bass viol
University of East Anglia Singers directed by Peter Aston

George Jeffreys (c. 1610-1685) was organist to Charles I at Oxford during the Civil War. Following the siege of Oxford and the eventual collapse of the city as a royalist stronghold he retreated to the Northamptonshire village of Weldon. There he remained for the rest of his life, working as steward to the Hatton family of Kirby Hall and composing in whatever spare time his administrative duties would allow.

Jeffreys commands attention as a champion of the new musical styles and techniques that were invading England from Italy during the first half of the 17th Century. his interest in the stile nuovo is evident even in his earliest works, a set of four 3-part string fantasias probably dating from 1629. Here and in the secular vocal music he composed during the early 1630s, he explored the affective declamatory style, attempting to reconcile it with the techniques of the English polyphonic tradition. A more thorough exploration of the stile nuovo began when, at some time before the Interregnum, he started to compose for the church. Eventually, he was to concentrate exclusively on devotional settings, and by 1675 he had produced almost 100 sacred compositions. In these works he tackled and ultimately resolved the problem of absorbing Italian influences into English song. He was one of the first English composers to establish a true Baroque style, one which took inspiration from Italian music but was nevertheless distinctive and original.

This recording was first issued in 1980 by the University of East Anglia series UEA Recordings. Since that time, further manuscripts have come to light and detailed research has been carried out into Jeffrey's activities as a copyist of Italian music for Christopher Hatton, on the Hatton collection of printed and manuscript music, and on the autograph score-book (British Librarym Add. Ms. 10338) which contains virtually all of Jeffrey's own compositions. It is now clear that many of the anthems thought to have been composed after 1648 are considerably earlier and may well have formed part of the chapel repertory of the royal court at Oxford. The fact that so much of the devotional music is from the pre-Commonwealth period makes Jeffrey's achievements as a pioneer of Italianate sacred music even more remarkable than had previously been supposed.

  1. Jubilate Deo  4'28
  2. Ecce, dilectus meus  4'11
  3. Timor et tremor  2'40
  4. Heu, me miseram  6'32
  5. O Domine Deus
  6. O Deus meus (secunda pars)  8'31
  7. Whisper it easily  6'15
  8. Hei mihi, Domine  2'54
  9. O Quam suave  5'16
  10. In the midst of life  4'49
  11. A musick strange  7'45