Threads of Gold II – Music from the Golden Age
Works by Byrd, Gibbons, R Parsons, Tallis and Tomkins
Choir of York Minster/Robert Sharpe; Benjamin Morris (organ)
Regent REGCD544 74:12 mins
This second volume of the series devoted to those glittering works from the Tudor and Jacobean periods easily maintains the standard of the first volume issued in 2017. The enormous choir – some 45 members, male and female – may be contrary to current performance practices, but it is well under control and used to great effect. We experience this straight away on the first track, Parsons’s Ave Maria. The resonant acoustic does not obscure the individual lines, nor the carefully enunciated text, and the subtle use of varied dynamics serves to shape the mass of sound.
This is also true in Tallis’s ‘If ye love me’, while in Byrd’s ‘Sing Joyfully’ the robust and monumental sound conjures up a great cacophony of celebration. Some of these pieces such as Byrd’s Ave verum, with its exotic chord switches, are too well known for us not to make comparisons, and here the tuning could have been a little more stable and the texture more cohesive. Also elsewhere (‘See the world’ by Gibbons) sometimes a somewhat over assertive ‘operatic’ sound can emerge in the lower voices. It is in ‘When David Heard’ by Tomkins that the choir reaches its deepest and best understanding of the interiority of the music. There is some fine solo singing, and the organ playing by Benjamin Morris is excellent throughout.