Palestrina, Allegri, Byrd, Tomkins, Guerrero, Tallis, Gibbons, Tavener, G—recki, Barber, etc

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Allegri,Barber,Byrd,etc,Gibbons,Gorecki,Guerrero,Palestrina,Tallis,Tavener,Tomkins
LABELS: Universal
ALBUM TITLE: Renaissance: Music of Inner Peace
WORKS: Works by Palestrina, Allegri, Byrd, Tomkins, Guerrero, Tallis, Gibbons, Tavener, Górecki, Barber,
PERFORMER: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
CATALOGUE NO: 986 673-7
Universal celebrates its first recording of The Sixteen with two discs of sacred music, of prayer, and of praise and celebration. The choir earned its reputation as 16 voices singing 16th-century polyphony with exceptional sensitivity, and it retains a special intensity in motets by Byrd and Tallis. Pops from the period include Allegri’s Miserere with wholehearted top Cs (additions, research suggests, by a later, ambitious Sistine choirmaster), Gibbons’s Hosanna in glorious heaven-bound imitations, and overwhelming waves of grief in Tomkins’s When David heard. But there are unfamiliar treats, too, especially from Iberia: a Salve regina by the Portuguese Melgas and Spanish motets by Guerrero are outstanding. The Sixteen brings the same control of line – phrases expanding from a diaphanous clarity to intense richness and back again – in its 20th-century selection. Górecki’s Totus tuus and Tavener’s The Lamb, both from 1987, require exceptional timbral purity, though the first includes a mighty wall of scintillating sound. Barber’s Agnus Dei (the string quartet/orchestra Adagio in yet another profitable guise) is magical – rock-like chording below soprano melismas. Indeed, intonation throughout is remarkable, with rarely a whisker of adjustment between pieces. The recording penetrates the warm acoustic, only once stretched by sudden harmonic side-steps of a Lassus piece, while eight-part textures (Lotti’s Crucifixus, Palestrina’s Salve regina) test the strength of the bass harmonic support. But, for all the five-century span, the variety of the selection is only skin-deep until the last of 39 items, a polychoral motet by Gabrieli, with ‘favoriti’ soloists, gloriously enriched with trombones and organ. George Pratt