The Sun Most Radiant: Music from the Eton Choirbook, Vol. 4

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COMPOSERS: John Browne,William Horwood
LABELS: Avie
ALBUM TITLE: The Sun Most Radiant: Music from the Eton Choirbook, Vol. 4
WORKS: John Browne: Salve regina I & IIa; William Horwood: Gaude flore virginali; William, Monk of Stratford: Magnificat
PERFORMER: Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford/Stephen Darlington
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2359

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The Eton Choirbook, compiled around 1515, contains around 60 works by composers associated not only with Eton but also with the Chapel Royal and other institutions. It has never been recorded complete (a five-CD set by The Sixteen is the most comprehensive), and this latest disc from the ongoing Avie selection contains two first recordings – Browne’s Salve Regina II and Horwood’s Gaude flore virginali.

These really are brilliantly composed works, and Stephen Darlington and the Christchurch Choir understand them better than most. In the case of Browne’s Salve Regina I, for example, the long, rhapsodic lines are given the time, direction and acoustic space to unfold organically and with clarity. They transpose the piece up a tone, as do The Sixteen on Coro, which gives it brightness, but the latter scramble through it in 11 minutes while Christchurch take 15. A similar deft spaciousness comes in this version of Stratford’s Magnificat when compared with the Tonus Peregrinus attempt on Naxos. Of the two premiere recordings, the Horwood item works best with the choir representing the trio sections with an utterly cool brilliance which blossoms into transcendent radiance at the entry of the full choir.

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Anthony Pryer