WORKS: Stabat mater; Miserere; Stabat mater; Crucifixus
PERFORMER: Vasari Singers/Jeremy Backhouse
CATALOGUE NO: GMCD 7148
The Vasari Singers are an amateur choir, and a very fine one. If they need a split second for chords to settle, for voices to focus, the pay-off is a captivating ardour and commitment. Momentary slips, of intonation below a gloriously effortless soprano top C in Allegri’s Miserere, of hard-driven soloists in the liveliest sections of Scarlatti’s Stabat mater – these are a small price to pay for such a fresh, enthusiastic sound. The Singers, and Backhouse, are fearless too.
This taxing programme begins with seven unaccompanied pieces in which pitch remains admirably stable – Palestrina’s eight-part Stabat mater, ‘Crucifixus’ settings in six, eight and ten parts by Lotti, the harmonic maze of a Gesualdo motet. High spots for me are the almost unbearably tortured harmonies of Lotti’s six-part Crucifixus, the dense, enveloping sonority of his eight-part setting, the spaciousness of both distant semi-chorus and of slow-paced chant in Allegri’s Miserere. Another Crucifixus by Caldara is denser still – in 16 parts from this 26-strong choir – with a hypnotic harmonic sequence surrounding Christ’s entombment. Excellent recorded sound capitalises on the acoustics of a fine London church, retaining a ‘presence’ with sustained ambient sound between the tracks. George Pratt