Magnificat - The Tudors At Prayer - Sinfini Music
Mention of the Tudors calls to mind extremes of lust and piety, politics and prayer. The family's vaulting ambitions upturned the established order of things, severing ancient ties with the Roman Catholic church and rewriting religious practice. Tudor composers managed to navigate the English Reformation's testing twists and turns with extraordinary skill and no little courage, creating works for the old Latin rite long after it had been outlawed.
While several pieces on Magnificat's latest album, William Mundy's sublime Vox patris caelestismonumental among them, date from the years of Mary Tudor's Catholic counter-reformation, there is also room for two Latin masterworks by Tallis and Byrd from the Protestant age of Elizabeth I.
Philip Cave and his seasoned singers allow this music to breathe naturally. They make a terrific job of Robert White's Tota pulchra es, the seductive sounds of which soar above a solid plainsong tune, and project the tonal richness of Taverner's Quemadmodum desiderat cervus. The performance style is light on dynamic contrast, too light for my taste in White's Domine, quis habitabit. But Magnificat's unwavering focus, flawless intonation and subtle phrasing bring energy and life to the often convolute lines of music conceived to intensify spiritual contemplation.