The Earth Resounds

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Josquin; Brumel; Lassus
ALBUM TITLE: The Earth Resounds
WORKS: Motets by Lassus and Desprez; Brumel: Gloria and Sanctus from Missa Et ecce tera motus
PERFORMER: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

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The Sixteen is slightly out of its comfort zone on this CD having moved historically backwards (with the exception of the pieces by Lassus) to music written around 1500. In some ways this is risky because much of the music of that era, with its intricate textures and long, nervous phrases, may not be best suited to a choir of so many voices. Also, as the liner notes tell us, Harry Christophers was incapacitated when the recording was made and often had to convey his interpretations to the choir via the associate conductor Eamonn Dougan.

The choir is at its best in two movements selected from Antoine Brumel’s Missa Et ecce terrae motus – the Earthquake Mass – written for 12 voice parts. (The work has been recorded complete by The Tallis Scholars and others.) The Gloria opens with some truly delicate singing, and the clear, restricted harmonies evoke a performance of monumental majesty from The Sixteen. It is also at home in Lassus, with some deft rhythmic gear-changing at the mention of joyous Easter in Aurora lucis, and a sure-footed (though oddly serene) presentation of Timor et tremor. The Josquin Desprez pieces are more problematic. The choir is hard-edged and unrelenting in the Praeter rerum, and for a Huc me sydero with marvellous clarity you will need to turn to the Orlando Consort recording (on Archiv).

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Anthony Pryer