WORKS: Choral works by Pärt, Guerrero, Palestrina, Tavener, Poulenc, Lassus, Eccard, Holst, Allegri, Barber, Philips, Wood, Victoria, Stanford, Tallis
PERFORMER: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge/Stephen Cleobury, Peter Stevens (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: EMI 609 0042
Can any choir accurately encapsulate the range of styles and idiom required by repertoire ranging over a period of five centuries? The answer is no, but the question is possibly curmudgeonly, given the mainly high levels of musical satisfaction afforded by this latest King’s College, Cambridge collection.
Certainly the longest piece featured in this program, Allegri’s Miserere, brings an outstandingly involving interpretation to light, the stratospheric top Cs for solo treble not unduly spotlighted, and marvellously natural unison phrasing in the plainchant sections, potentially flat interludes.
Tallis’s Spem in alium is, however, rather disappointing, the intricate 40-part writing curdled in tutti by the King’s acoustic into an opaque miasma.
The underwhelming Spem is an exception: Palestrina’s Hodie Christus natus est, for two four-part choirs, has fresh, bright-toned trebles piping antiphonally against the other voices, each part carefully balanced out.
The trebles shine again in the leaping elation of Philips’s Surgens Jesus. I wish Barber’s Agnus Dei (the Adagio with words) had been omitted in favour of something less hackneyed, but it doesn’t mar this firmly recommendable introduction to how the King’s choir sounds at present. Terry Blain