The Call of Rome
Works by Allegri, Anerio, Josquin & Victoria
The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
CORO COR16178 72:45 mins
It is not easy to find ways to contextualise selections of 16th-century sacred music. Harry Christophers has contrived in various Coro albums to give us devotions to the Virgin Mary (Hail, Mother of the Redeemer), works with stunning effects (The Earth Resounds) and musicians associated with a particular institution (Music from the Sistine Chapel). Now he turns to an important group of composers associated with Rome, though only Josquin and Victoria were actually ‘called’ to the city since Felice Anerio and Allegri were born there.
The singers begin with Victoria’s responses for Holy Saturday. They immediately evoke the meanings of the texts, conjuring up a compelling drama in their portrayal of Christ’s harrowing of hell (‘Recessit pastor noster’), and a reverent tone as Christ speaks in the first person (‘O vos omnes’). These performances are rather faster than their 2011 recording of these Victoria works on the Erato label, and this can give them a slight glibness. The same is true when they sing Josquin’s ‘Pater noster’, though they are in their element in the boisterous Alleluias of his Gaude Virgo. Allegri’s Miserere (a track recorded in 2012 and already included on an earlier disc) is not the usual version but an interesting ‘collage’ of different embellishments of the work representing various stages in its performance history. The warm sound and musical energy of The Sixteen rightly attract enthusiasts, but they rarely match the pristine tuning, directional shaping and searching interpretations of groups such as Tenebrae and A Sei Voce.