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Book of Beasts: Listening Guide

Thomas Ravenscroft


Thomas Ravenscroft

"New Oysters"

This is an Elizabethan sales jingle. These were quite popular for a long time!


Orlando di Lasso


"Audite Nova"

'The happy and boisterous world of a banquet led di Lasso in Audite Nova, which jokingly attracts attention and signi cance with a formal Latin introduction, to play afterwards with double entendre words and syllables in a madrigalesque manner. So that there sounds here the gyri gyri gaga, which gives us the title of the present recording. On the other hand, a further dimension of this world opens up with the huge group of love-songs, which reveals a rich emotional life.'

"Laudate Dominum quondam bonus"

Setting of Psalm 147, publish in 1568


"Byrd one brere"

'On the face of it, this is a song of a man to a bird, begging for a sympathetic ear for a man hopelessly in love; on another level, bryd has the double meaning, of "burde", as in a young woman — when this would be sung in the hall, she might recognize herself and take pity. The third level is "Brid" as St. Bride, or St. Brighid, the fair one. In any case, the song is among the first (extant) English love lyrics.'

More information


"Foweles in the frith"

'Fowles in the Frith is an anonymous Medieval English lyric poem, circa the 13th-14th century AD. We are lucky to have the poem today because Fowles in the Frith was "written on one page of a manuscript of legal texts, noted [jotted] down by some monk going about his labor, or we would not have it."'

Jacques Arcadelt


"Il bianco e dolce cigno"

This song helped to usher in the great age of Italian madrigal-writing in the first half of the sixteenth century. Its lyrics are the inspiration for the later English madrigal on the same topic, “The silver swan.” A northerner who settled in Italy in the 1530s, Arcadelt was director of the Sistine Chapel boys’ choir as early as 1539, the same year he published four books of madrigals for four voices. This song, surely his “greatest hit,” captures with utmost simplicity the sad longing of the poetry. The soprano line takes the lead most of the time. Arcadelt finds an ideal balance between homophonic phrases, where all four voice parts sing the words together, and imitative ones, where they enter successively.


Orlando Gibbons


"Dainty fine bird"

Of singing, imprisonment, and death. Common Renaissance madrigal themes.

"The Silver Swan"

One of gibbons finest and most interesting madrigals full of text painting and shifting harmonies. His composition evokes an Englishman approaching his death with surprisingly no double-entendre.


Pierre Passereau


"Il est bel et bon"

We have referred to Passereau as a bit of a one hit wonder. But what a hit it is.


Thomas Weelkes


"The ape, the monkey, and the baboon"

One of Weelkes' last compositions, it is a fine example his desire to explore other areas besides courtly love and ancient gods.

"The Andalusian Merchant"

This account by a world traveler tells of the wonders of far away lands...including the exotic Spain.


"In winter cold - whereat an ant"

An Aesop's fable provides the text for this setting.


William Byrd


"Dominus Deus meus"

This is a setting of Psalm 7:2-5


Andrea Gabrieli


"Sumer is icumen in"

It may come as a surprise to many of you "Row row row your boat" fans that this is the oldest known English round (rota). 


"Der Nutzgauch auf dem Zaun saß"

This lied has a very folk-like quality and is clearly a drinking song of sorts. Listen for the conversant cuckoo birds twittering above the quartet.


Lorenz Lemlin


"El Grillo"

'The chanson El grillo, with its imitation of the cricket, is a fine jeu d’esprit.' ( We like it because of its charm and text-painting. That and the cricket noises we get to make.


Joaquin des Prez


"Ein Genlein"

Two songs about chickens and the unfortunate comparisons. We're sure no offense was meant. Well, at least not now.


Antonio Scandello


"Le chant des oiseaux"

Lots of bird noises in this piece. We decided to divide the sections between to quartets of singers: narrators and birds. We think you will enjoy the change.


Clement Janequin


"Contraponto bestiale all mente"

Short, sweet, and funny. This is how composers provided comedic entertainment in the late 17th century and is a precursor to comic opera. 'Contraponto' was written to celebrate Giovedi Grosso - fat Tuesday (the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday). We have taken a few liberties with the animal sounds - hope you don't mind!


Adriano Banchieri


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