Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Schütz, Purcel, Bach, Poulenc, Tavener

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COMPOSERS: Bach,Gabrieli,Monteverdi,Poulenc,Purcel,Schutz,Tavener
LABELS: Philips
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Jubilate Deo
WORKS: Jubilate Deo; Hor ch’el ciel e la terra; Freue dich; Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen; Hear My Prayer; O God, Thou Hast Cast Us Out; Komm, Jesu, komm, BWV 229; Figure humaine; The World is Burning
PERFORMER: Monteverdi Choir, Friends of the Monteverdi Choir (instrumentalists)/ John Eliot Gardiner
CATALOGUE NO: 446 116-2

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Only those privy to Philips’s promotional literature will know that this is the Monteverdi Choir’s 30th-anniversary disc. Without that information, perhaps omitted because the anniversary year, and recording date, were back in 1994, such a mixture of periods and of sacred and secular might seem inexplicable. The only booklet notes are an appreciation of the choir by Richard Morrison and an essay entitled ‘On Singing in the Monteverdi Choir’. So one can only assume that the disc, ordered chronologically, aims to show the breadth of repertoire the choir has excelled in since its 1964 debut performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers, from which it took its name. And excel it does. Turn on at track one and it may take a few seconds of aural adjustment before you realise what you’re listening to: a Gabrieli Jubilate so bouncy that it almost sounds computer-generated. Other tracks are less astonishing but no less accomplished, in particular a graceful, lilting Komm, Jesu, komm, its semiquavers smoothly sinuous. In Poulenc’s Second World War cantata Figure humaine, Gardiner’s emphasis on idiomatic pronunciation pays off in its clear, declamatory lines in which a poor accent could not escape notice. The recorded premiere of Tavener’s The World Is Burning (1993), one of his less inspiring works, brings the disc up to date. Janet Banks