Various: Gregorian chant from the Vatican

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COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Herald
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Tu Es Petrus
WORKS: Gregorian chant from the Vatican
PERFORMER: Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge/Mary Berry
CATALOGUE NO: HAVPCD 245
If we needed a reminder that the millennium is primarily an anniversary for the Christian church – and the Catholic church at that – then this is it. Mary Berry is enormously experienced in the teaching and singing of plainsong, and here she has put together a celebration of the founder of the church, St Peter, recorded at the Vatican itself.

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Not surprisingly, the effect is more one of a churchly devotional meditation than of a musical concert, and this sometimes shows in the standards of performance, especially of the polyphonic items. The two sharply delicate 13th-century motets on St Peter, for example, are reduced to vague noises with these performers and in the echoing acoustic. Only the more simple lines and clear-cut repetitions of Palestrina’s motet ‘Tu es Petrus’ move us as music should. The chants are a different matter. All of Mary Berry’s experience shows here and rarely will you hear chant sung with more flexible and alive phrasing than in the two Alleluias and in the powerfully solemn ‘Si diligis me’. Finally, the soaring female vocalists in ‘Surge Petre’ manage to create an ecstatic fizz more in keeping with the effects of saltpetre than St Peter. Anthony Pryer