ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Sancte Deus
PERFORMER: Choir of New College, Oxford/Edward Higginbottom; Ryan Wigglesworth (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-80239-2
It is worth joining Edward Higginbottom and the Choir of New College, Oxford, on this journey through the Renaissance. Higginbottom and his singers capitalise intelligently on the importance of music printing and Church patronage at the time these pieces were written, offering a representative selection of popular favourites and lesser-known works.
Reverberant acoustics, occasionally wobbly trebles and untidiness in the ensemble sometimes blur the focus, but more than adequate compensation is provided by sensitively arched phrasing and heartfelt expression. In the Tallis items, for example, the choir effectively communicates the delicious melodiousness of ‘Sancte Deus’ and the spacious grandeur of ‘Spem in alium’. Elsewhere, Higginbottom’s choir convincingly projects the heavenward glance of Lassus’s ‘Videntes stellam’ and vividly evoke the sombre grieving of Gombert’s ‘Lugebat David’, the sweet lamentation of Lobo’s ‘Versa est in luctum’ and the exuberance of Byrd’s ‘Gloria’ and Lassus’s ‘Resonet in laudibus’.
Uneven balance unfortunately detracts from the rich opulence of the antiphonal exchanges in ‘Ave virgo sanctissima’ by the Roman composer Ugolini and spoils the decorative imitation at the beginning of Josquin’s ‘Inviolata, integra et casta es’. Ultimately, though, tighter choral discipline winningly captures the more contemplative character of Victoria’s ‘Ave Maria’ and Palestrina’s ‘Agnus Dei’. Nicholas Rast