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GRAMOPHONE ( 05 / 2018)
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Harmonia Mundi

Code-barres / Barcode : 3149020227220

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Reviewer: Edward Breen

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 with Westminster Cathedral Choir (Decca, 5/60) and retaining an imprint of that extrovert approach ever since. Of course, the texts are expressive, atmospheric and so demonstratively set that it is hard to retain an English countenance in performance, and even The Tallis Scholars used an unusually robust sound (Gimell, 1/91). It’s rather thrilling therefore to hear Stile Antico, who often perform Renaissance polyphony calmly, tap in to the dramatic excitement and atmospheric intensity now associated with these works.

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, delineating the darkness of the Crucifixion from the crying out of Jesus in what must be one of the most intimate performances on record.

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