Sweelinck: Cantiones sacrae, Vols 1 & 2

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COMPOSERS: Sweelinck
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Cantiones sacrae, Vols 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Trinity College Chapel Choir, Cambridge/Richard Marlow
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67103, 67104
Sweelinck is unquestionably one of the great figures in keyboard music from the turn of the sixteenth century; his harmonic flair and fertile manipulation of texture had a huge impact on the development of Baroque keyboard music. Today his choral music does not attract anything like the attention lavished on his organ and harpsichord works; a pity since, as this complete recording of the 1619 Cantiones Sacrae shows, Sweelinck’s command of late Renaissance choral style was formidable and is shot through with many features looking forward to the music of the Baroque. A growing acquaintance with this marvellous music reveals extraordinary riches: imaginative harmony, a superbly flexible approach to word setting and a powerful sense of structure chief among them; for a start just try the pungent epiphany motet (no 3), the exuberant and charming setting of Cantate Dominum (no 8) and the broad and inspiring treatment of the Te Deum text (no 37).

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Richard Marlow and his youthful choir deserve credit not just for salvaging this music, but for presenting it in such vital and responsive performances; the student status of the choir is only revealed in a sporadic lack of blend and the occasional fragmentation of longer lines. Jan Smaczny