Music From The Eton Choirbook

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COMPOSERS: Lambe; Davy; Browne; Kellyk; Wylkinson
ALBUM TITLE: Music From The Eton Choirbook
WORKS: Lambe: Nesciens Mater; Davy: St Matthew Passion; Browne: Stabat Mater; Kellyk: Magnificat a 5; Wylkinson: Jesus autem transiens/Credo in Deum
PERFORMER: Tonus Peregrinus/Antony Pitts


The Eton Choirbook, compiled around 1515, contains about 60 works by composers associated not only with Eton but also with the Chapel Royal and other institutions. It has never been recorded complete (The Sixteen’s five-CD set on Coro is the most comprehensive), and this Naxos selection contains at least one first recording (Kellyk’s Magnificat).

These performances are commendable, displaying unearthly breath control in the long phrases of works such as Kellyk’s Magnificat, and great clarity of texture in the dense counterpoint typical of these pieces (as in Walter Lambe’s Nesciens Mater). One odd effect is produced by the practice of transposing the duet and trio sections within works up an octave, especially when (as at the end of Stratford’s Magnificat) those sections dovetail straight into passages for full choir sung in the correct octave. These pieces could sound more fully assimilated by the performers, too: compare the routine account of Browne’s Stabat Mater with the stunning version by the Taverner Consort on Virgin Classics.


Anthony Pryer