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GRAMOPHONE (07/2016)
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Reviewer: Fabrice Fitch


Hot on the heels of Andrew Parrott’s fine account of Taverner’s Western Wynde Mass (Avie, 5/16) comes this double-bill from Westminster Abbey, pairing the work with the composer’s Mass-and-motet cycle Mater Christi. This is an astute piece of programming, for the two works are equally compact, however different they may be in other respects. By the standard of similar Mass-and-motet cycles by Ludford or Fayrfax, Mater Christi is indeed unusually compact, though its melodic style is of a piece with Taverner at his most expansive, post-Eton idiom; yet it still comes across as more expansive than Western Wynde and its extremely corseted structure.


These are very sound, lucid performances in every sense. The recorded balance allows the individual lines of Mater Christi to be heard with surprising clarity given the acoustic – not the Abbey’s, incidentally, but that of St Alban’s, Holborn. There’s not a weak link in the distribution (the ‘In nomine’ of Mater Christi shows off the adult males to particularly good effect); and although initial treble entries can sometimes appear hesitant, on the whole these boys deal with the long drawn-out phrases with as much confidence as their elders. In comparison with the Taverner Consort, James O’Donnell’s reading of Western Wynde is rather softer-centred, but that’s neither particularly surprising nor a bad thing in itself: a work as resourcefully inventive as this both sustains and deserves such contrasting approaches. Taverner accommodates a certain brashness but this more gentle rendering grows on me.


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