Taverner: Kyrie Leroy; Western Wind Mass; plus choral works by Cornysh, Sheryngham, Tye and Anonymous

COMPOSERS: Taverner
LABELS: Ars Nova
ALBUM TITLE: Taverner
WORKS: Kyrie Leroy; Western Wind Mass; plus choral works by Cornysh, Sheryngham, Tye and Anonymous
PERFORMER: Ars Nova Copenhagen/Paul Hiller
CATALOGUE NO: 8.22605
Three 16th-century masses survive based on the tune ‘Western Wind’, one each by Taverner, Tye and Sheppard. But the greatest of these is this one by John Taverner, in which the tune, although stated 36 times, gives rise to such varieties of texture and rhythm that its omnipresence is hardly noticed amongst the threads of glorious polyphony. On this disc the Mass is found alongside other Tudor works, including four pieces from the Fayrfax Manuscript of around 1500.

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Few understand such music better than Paul Hillier, who has directed the 16-voiced Scandinavian choir Ars Nova since 2002. His approach to the Mass is brisk but flexible, with an admirable sense of the alternation of intensity and dissipation that inhabits this music. Moreover, in Cornysh’s dramatic and highly personalised account of the crucifixion, ‘Woefully arrayed’, Hillier turns the choir into a true theatre of voices, with some startling results. Other pieces (‘Ah, my dear son’) seem a little featureless and the recorded sound can be rather hard-edged. Anthony Pryer