‘A Renaissance Anthology’ is a misleading title for what is essentially a collection of sacred vocal music. A more serious complaint is that this two-CD boxed set includes one disc that was first released in 1990 (and is still available). The second disc comprises newly-recorded material, but is available only as part of the anthology. This means that anybody who already owns the 1990 disc will get it again if they buy this anthology. The booklet with the first disc still fails to include Latin or English texts, or any indication of which singers sing on which tracks.
The box twice prints Palestrina’s year of death as 1549 instead of 1594. All in all, this is shoddy presentation. The music deserves better, and these sets are not among the Sixteen’s finest. The major works on the first disc are Allegri’s Miserere mei plus Palestrina’s Stabat mater dolorosa – a rather unenterprising choice.
The only extended piece on the second disc is the Lassus Missa super Bell’ Amfitrit’ altera, though other highlights include Caldara’s 16-part Crucifixus and Cavalli’s lovely Salve regina. There are also brief vocal works by Andrea Gabrieli, Giovanni Gabrieli and Monteverdi, as well as two very short organ pieces by Frescobaldi, making this the more adventurous, if a somewhat random, selection.
The performances are good, though not flawless. But other collections of Renaissance choral music, at least as good, are available in less expensive formats. Readers who already have the 1990 disc should know that an excellent account of the Lassus Mass has just been released on Decca’s Ovation label. At mid-price, that is a saving of some 200%. Graham Lock