COMPOSERS: Byrd; Cornysh; Crequillon; Gibbons; David; Guerrero; Lasso; Lhéritier; McCabe; Morales; Tallis; Taverner; Victoria
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Passion and Resurrection
WORKS: Byrd: In resurrectione tua; Cornysh: Woefully arrayed; Crequillon: Congratulamini mihi; Gibbons: Hosanna to the son of David; David: I am the Resurrection; Guerrero: Maria Magdalene; Lasso: In monte Oliveri; Lhéritier: Surrexit pastor bonus; McCabe: Woefully arrayed; Morales: O crux, ave; Tallis: O sacrum convivium; Taverner: Dum transisset; Victoria: O vos omnes
PERFORMER: Stile Antico
CATALOGUE NO: HMU807555
These Eastertide works provide us with a little jewel box of famous European polyphony c1520-c1620, written by English, Flemish and Spanish masters. At the centre of the programme we also find the modern composer John McCabe (b.1939) who has provided the choir with a stunning setting of the late medieval text, Woefully Arrayed – the same text that appears in a work by Cornysh on the disc’s first track.
The McCabe piece represents the first foray of Stile Antico into contemporary music, and it is beautifully tailored to the 12 voices of the choir. Although fiendishly difficult to perform, they manage it with superb poise and great dramatic sensitivity and projection. Clearly this is a group that can sing in tune, maintain its balance and enunciate words clearly. Apparently they usually perform without a conductor, a practice that seems to have given them one or two problems. In Victoria’s O Vos Omnes, for example, a discerning and alert director might have persuaded them to highlight the plangent imitation between soprano and bass at the words ‘si est dolor’, and to maintain the intensity right up to the end – they have a tendency to begin winding down around two thirds of the way through a piece (also heard in Gibbons’ Hosanna). Again, their immaculately neat performances can be a little monochrome (Taverner’s Dum Transisset), and works with complex rhythms (Byrd, In resurrectione –I am the Resurrection) a bit clunky. Even so, inspired moments abound – the glittering, delicate tracery of sound in O Crux Ave by Morales is magical.