New York Polyphony

COMPOSERS: New York Polyphony
LABELS: Avie
ALBUM TITLE: I Sing The Birth
WORKS: Works by Smith, Palestrina, Leighton, Pérotin, Cornysh, Maxwell Davies, Clemens
non Papa, Parsons and Byrd

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PERFORMER: New York Polyphony; with Elizabeth Baber, Ruth Cunningham (soprano), Emilie Williams (mezzo-soprano)

CATALOGUE NO: AV 2141
There’s plenty of rare repertoire to sample in this 60-minute sequence of unaccompanied Christmas settings spanning nine centuries. The four male members of New York Polyphony (countertenor, tenor, baritone, bass-baritone) are the core performers, augmented as necessary by a trio of female voices, the crystalline purity of the soprano contribution to Kenneth Leighton’s setting of the famous ‘Coventry Carol’ being particularly affecting. They sing most alluringly, superior technique a given but never flaunted, the focus squarely on communicating the deeply emotional wellsprings of much of this music. Byrd’s ‘O magnum mysterium’ accordingly yields much poignancy, while the NYP’s superbly accurate tuning makes it possible to thin out textures daringly for Peter Maxwell Davies’s short, spare ‘The Fader of Heven’. Selections by Robert Parsons and young English composer Andrew Smith also stand out, as does the brief but stunning monophonic ‘Beata viscera’ by Pérotin. This is my Christmas CD of 2007.

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Terry Blain