Tune Thy Musicke To Thy Hart
The singers of Stile Antico are no strangers to English sacred music having produced some award-winning recordings usually centred on one or two composers of this repertory. Here, though, they have done things a little differently. This anthology gathers together not music for the official institutions of worship, but sacred pieces sung in private, or used for personal moments of grief, or which appear only in secular manuscripts. The result is a varied treasure trove of seldom heard but extremely affecting music, nicely sung and spliced together with some darkly-glittering string In Nomines played by Fretwork.
The great surprise (at least to me) of the disc was the music of John Amner (1579-1641), a rarely recorded composer from Ely. His devotional madrigal A Stranger Here is breathtaking in its accomplished use of dissonance which the choir manages with some poise and fine tuning. Also his verse anthem O Ye Little Flock narrates the Christmas story delightfully, but in these works the choir could have made more of the theatrical aspects of the drama. They are, though, more compelling in their presentation of the mesmerising chords of Campion’s Never Weather Beaten Sail and easily persuade us that there is such a thing as beautiful simplicity. The only work which really challenges the singers to enter into dialogue with each other is Browne’s Jesu, Mercy. This reveals some fine individual vocalists and the spatial effects evoke the best from the rather good SACD recorded sound.