Sheppard, de Lassus, Handl, Mundy, Byrd, Rheinberger, Bourgeois, Tallis, Victoria, Guerrero, Rachmaninov

COMPOSERS: Bourgeois,Byrd,de Lassus,Guerrero,Handl,Mundy,Rachmaninov,Rheinberger,Sheppard,Tallis,Victoria
LABELS: Collegium
ALBUM TITLE: Lighten our Darkness
WORKS: Choral works by Sheppard, de Lassus, Handl, Mundy, Byrd, Rheinberger, Bourgeois, Tallis, Victoria, Guerrero, Rachmaninov
PERFORMER: Johan Harte (reader), Simon Wall (precentor); The Cambridge Singers/John Rutter
CATALOGUE NO: COLCD 131
The second CD of this set contains the complete Office of Compline, the last monastic prayers before bedtime. The cheerless traditional chants dominating this 22-minute disc only serve to intensify one’s appreciation of the main CD, which features settings of compline texts appropriate to evening meditation.

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Apart from Rheinberger’s Abendlied (1873) and Rachmaninov’s Bogoroditsye Dyevo (1915), John Rutter focuses on late 16th- to early 17th-century settings, demonstrating the glory and variety of Renaissance polyphony. It includes interesting examples of structural devices used to make a theological point: Jacob Handl’s Pater Noster physically divides the choir between high and low voices, placing one group in a gallery above the other whilst in Byrd’s O Christ, Who Art the Light and Day the source melody travels up, verse by verse, from low to high voices.

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The Reinberger and Rachmaninov pieces hold up extremely well in this illustrious company, even against the radiant heart of the recital, Victoria’s four Marian motets. As the whole choir sings beautifully throughout, perhaps I should resist singling out the brilliance of the sopranos in the Sheppard and Lassus pieces. Barry Witherden