- Tota pulchra es
- Adhaesit pavimento
The sacred music of the Tudor era in England has enjoyed a certain vogue lately with strong performances by the Sixteen and other groups bringing the repertory beyond enthusiasts of the cathedral style. This one, by the 18-voice British choir Magnificat, has much to recommend it. The choir may be about the same size as the Sixteen, but the restrained, precise quality of Magnificat's singing has a flavor different from that of the Sixteen's recordings. These big motets and antiphons proceed without a lot of dynamic contrast or sensuous phrase-shaping, letting the rather impersonal quality of the music stand on its own and rendering the dissonant stacks that pile up at phrase ends with uncanny clarity. The program is very well chosen. England, as the excellent booklet notes, underwent enormous changes over the roughly 40 years covered by the repertory performed, but the large Latin piece remained a kind of composerly tradition, created even when there was no large official need for one. The program here is devoted entirely to these works, and the listener's ear attunes itself to the differences among them, from the massive "Vox patris caelestis" of William Mundy to the High Renaissance sounds of Tallis and Byrd at the end of the period. Linn's engineering work in St. George's Chesterton church in Cambridge is exemplary, and this is a release that belongs on any decent shelf or hard drive of English choral music.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Though the theme is somewhat narrowly defined, (English sacred music 1560-1590), there's a surprising amount of variety in this program. Henry VII created the Anglican church, though it had very little change on the sacred music John Tavener and Thomas Tallis composed. His daughter, Mary I, reinstated the Catholic church, and the music of her time by William Mundi and Robert White, reflect that return to tradition. Elizabeth I, like her father an ardent music-lover, brought back the Anglican church, and the sacred music of her time seems more cosmopolitan, somehow. The sacred works of William Byrd don't follow quite follow tradition as closely. Magnificat performs all these works with appropriate interpretation, making it easier to hear the subtle differences between works written for monarchs with conflicting agendas.The sound is spacious, as befitting the chapels and cathedrals for which these works were written, with just enough ambiance to make the ensemble sound full, without obscuring the contrapuntal lines within.