WORKS: Missa de la batalla escoutez
PERFORMER: Choir of Westminster Cathedral, His Majestys Sackbutts and Cornetts/James O’Donnell
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67075
This year is the 400th anniversary of the death of Francisco Guerrero, though there does not seem to have been much celebratory activity on the recording front. This is a pity since, as this disc happily reveals, he was an architectural composer of great confidence and inventiveness. Most of his life was spent at Seville Cathedral which not only had a choir but also a wind band – hence the combination of performers here.
The Westminster Cathedral Choir clearly knows some of this music inside out, and its brisk, workmanlike style (honed in singing countless daily services) gives us a focused and firm Pange lingua and Magnificat – though the latter is a little rough in places, and the long ‘Battle Mass’ simply passes by like plain wallpaper. This is a large group of singers, not easy to control in delicate textures, but the opening of Duo seraphim is pliant and fresh, and the long and brilliant In exitu Israel is negotiated in a subtle and contemplative manner. The wind band comes into its own with a sure-footed and lightly ornamented version of Regina coeli – a vocal version of which can be heard by the choir in its 1985 recording for Hyperion. At the very least these performances show that Guerrero deserves his anniversary celebration. Anthony Pryer