William Mundy: Sacred Choral Music

Choir of St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh/Duncan Ferguson (Delphian)

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W Mundy Vox patris caelestis; In exitu Israel; Maria Virgo Sanctissima, Alleluia, Sive vigilem, etc.
Choir of St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh/Duncan Ferguson
Delphian DCD34204 65:15 mins

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Like his older contemporary Thomas Tallis, William Mundy survived violent religious upheaval while Catholicism and Protestantism vied for ascendancy as the official state religion. Most of the music on this album is associated with the Catholic rite, which has been scantily represented on record.

Of particular interest is Maria Virgo Sanctissima, a votive antiphon left unfinished by Mundy but now completed by the scholar Magnus Williamson. Some of the solo contributions are fallible in blend and intonation, yet Duncan Ferguson secures a rich, purposeful response in tutti sections, particularly from the mixed-voice trebles, who soar from ‘Surge ergo’ to the piece’s conclusion. The trebles’ crystal clarity of tone and unanimity of diction are again crucial in the plainchant segments of In exitu Israel, an Easter setting Mundy co-authored with Sheppard and Byrd. This is another well-paced, patiently expressive interpretation, enhanced by engineering which suggests the singers gradually approaching the font in procession, complete with tinkling thurible for censing. Vox patris caelestis, another Marian antiphon, is a more familiar piece, with excellent rival accounts available by The Sixteen, The Tallis Scholars, and Westminster Abbey Choir. Ferguson’s soloists seem less technically assured by comparison, but when all 33 singers join together the effect is uninhibitedly vibrant and refreshing. The shorter pieces, sensitively sung, provide welcome breathing space between the longer items. All-Mundy recitals are a considerable rarity, and this one can be confidently recommended.

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Terry Blain