29 Apr 2018

Tomás Luis de Victoria: Tenebrae Responsories
Stile Antico

Harmonia Mundi: HMM 902272

The works on this disc are taken from Victoria’s Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae (published Rome, 1585), a vast offering of polyphonic music spanning Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday. What are presented here are the Responsories for ‘Tenebrae’ services, once celebrated in the fading daylight as part of a liturgy requiring candles to be sequentially extinguished. It has become customary in modern times to record the Second and Third Nocturns from Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday in sequence. Divorced from their original context they form an impressively impassioned collection.

This has to be Stile Antico’s best album to date, it’s certainly their most gripping and, as ever with this ensemble, the vocal sound is sumptuous throughout. That they are so engaging in Victoria’s music can be no mere accident: these pieces have a bold recorded history beginning with George Malcolm’s feisty madrigalian interpretation (Westminster Cathedral Choir 1959: Decca 425078) and retaining an imprint of that extrovert approach ever since. [...]

In this recording I particularly admire how the singers find a splendid balance between their rich, blended sound and the need for individual vocal grains to emerge at imploring or declamatory moments. Take, for instance ‘tenebrae factae sunt’ in the Good Friday Responsories: here sung by low-voices: they delineate the darkness of the crucifixion from the crying out of Jesus in what must be one of the most intimate performances on record.

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (May 2018)

28 Apr 2018

Byrd Motets

Byrd Motets
The Choir of King’s College Cambridge, Stephen Cleobury



Throughout this disc, Cleobury opts for an up-front expressivity quite at odds with that classic, old King’s sound, leading to some very exciting moments. Occasionally the trebles lack the finesse and steely control to pull off the sort of performance heard from New College Oxford on their famous William Byrd Cantiones Sacrae 1589 (1983 CRD3420). [...]

Yet elsewhere the sound of the choral scholars—fuller, richer and bolder than ever before—pays many dividends. The Lenten motets Ne irascaris, Domine and Civitas sancti tui are superb, if not slightly too brisk for my task. More tenderness could be found in Byrd’s shapely setting of the word ‘Jerusalem’ but this is a small point compared to the rich vocal tone. By far the best track on this disc though is Alleluia. Ascendit Deus. Dominus in Sina. Here, in a higher tessitura, the trebles find more focus and the phrasing flows joyfully.

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (May 2018)