Taverner: Missa Mater Christi sanctissima; Magnificat Nesciens mater

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COMPOSERS: Taverner
LABELS: Hyperion Helios
WORKS: Missa Mater Christi sanctissima; Magnificat Nesciens mater
PERFORMER: The Sixteen, Fretwork/Harry Christophers
CATALOGUE NO: CDH 55053 Reissue (1992)
Both these reissues epitomise the qualities that make The Sixteen one of Britain’s outstanding choral groups: distilled purity of sound; impeccable ensemble and intonation; long-breathed lines. Harry Christophers takes an introspective view of Taverner’s monumental Missa Gloria tibi trinitas, producing a performance of untrammelled serenity. My benchmark recording is a controversial re-creation of how the Mass might have sounded had Spanish instrumentalists and singers of the English Chapel Royal united at the wedding of Mary Tudor to Philip II of Spain. If less polished than The Sixteen’s performance, this version has a sumptuous colour, with wind instruments highlighting Taverner’s glorious polyphony.

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The only other available version of the Missa Mater Christi is one set in liturgical context by the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral under Stephen Darlington. Boy trebles produce a more acidic sound than The Sixteen’s sonorous tones, and Darlington’s direction is less reflective. Both interpretations have much to offer. Kate Bolton