Guerrero: Missa Surge propera; Surge propera; Beata Dei genitrix; Usquequo, Domine; Ave Maria

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COMPOSERS: Guerrero
LABELS: Gimell
ALBUM TITLE: Guerrero
WORKS: Missa Surge propera; Surge propera; Beata Dei genitrix; Usquequo, Domine; Ave Maria
PERFORMER: Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips
CATALOGUE NO: CDGIM 040
With the first-ever recording of this Mass, The Tallis Scholars capture the essence of Guerrero. Enormously prolific, he was better known to his contemporaries internationally than any other Spanish composer – yet today is under-represented in both recordings and modern editions, in part because the seeming effortlessness of his music tends to obscure its sophistication.

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Peter Phillips’s direction brings out the masterful architecture of this work. His pacing of dynamics, sensitivity towards appropriate text emphases and sustained excitement on the approach to cadences reveal structure through melody. In sections where upper and lower voices reach the extremes of their compass, The Scholars’ blend and focused tuning shows us how spacious are the composer’s vertical sonorities, an effect brought home by the scrupulous quality of this recording. Such attention to detail does not, however, inhibit Phillips from exploring the emotionalism of this Mass: his choir’s range of inflection makes the liturgical message compelling as well as beautiful.

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Until recently the Guerrero revival was led on disc by the Westminster Cathedral Choir (on Hyperion), with a focus on the conditions of music-making in the composer’s home cathedral of Seville apparent in its use of rythmicised chant and a wind band. By removing Guerrero’s art from its context, The Tallis Scholars cast a strikingly new perspective through their ‘abstract’ reading of the score. Berta Joncus