Magnificat - The Tudors At Prayer - BBC Music Magazine
07 August 2014BBC Music Magazine
This disc illuminates works from England's most glorious,
but little-known, Renaissance sacred repertoire. Director Philip Cave creates
some revelatory readings, particularly of Mundy's monumental Vox patris caelestis.
For clarity, nuance and intimacy, Magnificat's 18 vocalists are unmatched.
They sustain lines of eye-popping length, delicately articulating imitative
points without compromising blend, and offering a timbral mix which ranges from
pure-toned treble to rumbling bass. The production's quality matches that of the
artists; even listeners unused to polyphony can follow the movement of musical
ideas between voices.
The programme is both original and edifying, including first
recordings of gem-like works by Robert White and William Mundy. Cave rightly
ranks the obscure White alongside Mundy, Tallis, Taverner and Byrd, and
demonstrates these English composers' capacity for writing both florid 'old
style' Tudor and suave 'new style' continental compositions, their achievements
at the cutting edge of innovation.
Occasionally Cave's slowness of tempos bleaches rhetoric
from the score. For instance, Taverner set the words, 'when will ... I come before
the face of God' to a plaintive ascending figure, taken up by all voices: under
Cave's directorship, the gesture is lost. Cave rarely lets word rhythms enliven
a sombre pulse. Still, sobriety doesn't dim the brilliance of this recording.
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