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GRAMOPHONE (07/2016)
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Resonus Classics 

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Reviewer: Caroline Gill


It is old news to mention the fact that their polished blend and ensemble come from the fact that the members of The Queen’s Six sing together every day (in their day jobs as lay clerks at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle). It is, though, as important as ever with this new collection of secular music for the court of Elizabeth I to emphasise the additional element of collusion one senses when listening to the evident enjoyment they derive from singing together. It brings a kind of twinkle to the performance that it is hard to find in the proliferation of groups of this type that would fare more honestly under the title ‘rent-a-choir’ than ‘ensemble’, such is the speed of change among their personnel.


The barely contained excitement behind the singing on this disc does not, however, undermine its refinement. Thomas Morley’s madrigal Hard by a crystal fountain is a particular example of how the group’s phrasing, melodic sense and harmonic direction all indicate not only how much this music is in the blood of these singers, but also the amount of serious work that goes into their reading of a repertoire that is still – after so many years – often treated as unworthy of serious interpretative study. The performance of each piece leaves behind it the strong image of a perfect vignette – a musical miniature entirely freestanding and meticulously crafted. One small criticism to that end, though, is that one or two of the pieces are rather weaker than their companions here – Thomas Weelkes’s Like two proud armies and Morley’s No, no Nigella, for example. Not only would their lack have gone happily unnoticed but it would also have left the remaining glittering examples to shine even more brightly in the light in which The Queen’s Six illuminate them.


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