Robert White: Miserere mei, Deus; Appropinquet deprecatio mea

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COMPOSERS: Robert White
LABELS: Meridian
WORKS: Miserere mei, Deus; Appropinquet deprecatio mea
PERFORMER: Henry’s Eight
When Robert White died in the plague epidemic in 1574 at the age of about 35, he left an impressive body of music. This latest issue offers a fascinating anthology of psalm motets, demonstrating the composer’s exceptionally wide compositional range. Two settings of Domine, quis habitabit, for example, offer strikingly different settings of the same text, in which the Eight’s rich-toned ensemble eloquently portrays the music’s fluid counterpoint and piquant dissonance. Alternatively, textual fragmentation and musical repetitions in Ad te levavi – evidence of continental influence – bear witness to the Eight’s vivid articulative clarity, emphasising important moments in the text. Most dramatic, though, is Miserere mei, Deus – the longest piece in the programme – where the Eight gives a potently expressive account of the score’s opposition of homophony and polyphony. Generally, they sing with impressive dynamic control and a sensitive response to the contrast of different vocal groupings. Listen to the alternation of beautifully spacious sections for full choir with more intimate passages for smaller forces in Appropinquet deprecatio mea. The present group may lack the Tallis Scholars’ serene refinement; however, the Eight’s lively performance of Regina caeli will probably be judged by some to provide a more appropriate expression of this text’s exuberance. Nicholas Rast