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John Sheppard: Media Vita

Choir of New College, Oxford/Robert Quinney (Linn Records)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

John Sheppard
Media Vita; Iudica me Deus; A solis ortus cardine, etc
Choir of New College, Oxford/Robert Quinney
Linn Records CKD 632   71:58 mins

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The 16th-century composer John Sheppard belongs to the generation just before the great figures of Tallis and Byrd. Selections from his Latin works have fairly frequently been recorded, and at least two of them (by Stile Antico on Harmonia Mundi, and the Westminster Cathedral Choir on Hyperion) have the same title as this one – taken from one of Sheppard’s most impressive motets.

There the similarity ends. The New College Choir (16 boys and 14 adults) is quite large but its engagingly fulsome sound is kept nicely in focus by the acoustics of the moderately sized church in which it was recorded. Their rich, warm sound comes across best in A solis ortus cardine and in the superb motet Media Vita of the title – the lower voices are in balance and the boys voices gain brightness from the slightly high performance pitch. Sometimes the pieces sag a little from lack of direction (Judice me Deus), and the inner voices occasionally require a little more effort to highlight the points of imitation and keep the rhythms precise in the shorter note values (Confitebor Domine). However, in general this is a vivid and convincing presentation of a very talented composer.

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Anthony Pryer