Robert Fayrfax (1464 - 1521): Music for Tudor Kings & Queens


In that golden age of British choral music half a millennium ago, when polyphonic voices soared in the vaulting of the great late-Gothic churches and chapels that seemed to have been built for them to fill, one composer was in especial favour with the royal family: Robert Fayrfax.

A newly reconstructed movement from a mass for the private wedding of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, later treasured in darker times by the recusant gentry for its Catholic associations, sits here alongside exuberant masterpieces from the Eton Choirbook and, in intimate contrast, Fayrfax’s seven surviving courtly songs, brought together on a single recording for the first time.

An exciting new signing for Delphian, Ensemble Pro Victoria’s young professionals bring both freshness and individuality to Fayrfax’s music in the five hundredth anniversary year of his death.

'The latest vocal ensemble to recieve Delphian's quality mark, and what riches for those inclined to luxuriate in the heavily cloth and densely woven sonic thread of Robert Fayrfax's choral music ... Upper voices set the tone, painting in the bold colour-saturated strokes of the Gothic manuscripts of this period - the effect is ear-englufing and dynamic ... the composer's only surviving four-part Mass is ear-twistingly intricate, even by the composer's own contrapuntal standards ... It's a compelling start from a new group I think we'll be hearing a lot more of"

"the selection of material makes for a fascinating programme, and it benefits from being performed by one of Britain’s finest young vocal ensembles, who in turn are supported by musical scholarship of the highest order, led by Magnus Williamson ... This is the first commercial disc to include all of Fayrfax’s surviving songs, which are interspersed among the longer Latin works throughout the recording, which is topped and tailed by two of his finest and best-known liturgical pieces ... Ensemble Pro Victoria plough their own furrow with a passionate engagement that does no great disservice whatsoever to Fayrfax’s transcendent music"


"There is such spirit to these performances ... Including all seven of Fayrfax's surviving courtly songs, heard on a single disc for the first time ... I can't recommend Magnus Williamson's booklet notes enough. Professor of Early Music at Newcastle University, Williamson leads the reader through the background to this music, its construction and its context brilliantly, the perfect adjunct to these brilliantly focused performances from Ensemble Pro Victoria, caught in the lovely acoustic of St Brandon's Church, Brancepeth, County Durham"


'Fayrfax's music, as illustrated in these religious works and partsongs, is both sophisticated and charming. It predates the easier eloquence of Tallis and Byrd, with a gutsiness – in some cases a rawness – that lights up such flavoursome examples as the substantial Magnificat Regale, a fascinating Credo reconstruction, and his fine partsong, Sumwhat musyng'

'The polyphonic verses of Fayrfax’s Magnificat feature elaborate, exuberant writing which Ensemble Pro Victoria deliver with great precision and skill ... Eleven singers are involved and the ensemble is highly disciplined; a fine blend is achieved. Where the forces are thinned down to a few voices the solo singers are excellent. Clearly, a great deal of thought and scholarship has gone into the preparation of the music yet the performances sound anything but studied. Rather, these singers bring the music to life under Toby Ward’s assured direction. Paul Baxter has recorded the singers with his customary skill. All the parts emerge clearly – which, of course is a tribute also to Toby Ward and his singers – yet there’s also a pleasing warmth to the sound and just the right degree of resonance. The documentation is excellent. I found Magnus Williamson’s booklet essay to be scholarly but highly informative'

read the full review here

"Vigorous and compelling, here are healthy, visceral voices of technical superiority, accuracy, ensemble and intonation in recorded sound of burnished luminosity. A debut CD which promises much"

Catalogue Number: DCD34265

Release Date: 22 October 2021

Recorded on 8-10 March 2021 in St Brandon’s Church, Brancepeth, County Durham

Producer/Engineer: Paul Baxter

24-bit digital editing: James Waterhouse

24-bit digital mastering: Paul Baxter

Design: Drew Padrutt

Booklet editor: Henry Howard

Cover: Michiel Sittow (c.1469–1525), Mary Rose Tudor or Catherine of Aragon, oil on wood, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Session photography: foxbrushfilms.com

Singing In Secret: Clandestine Catholic Music by William Byrd CD Delphian Records


Magnificat Regale


Album Booklet

You may also like ...