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GRAMOPHONE (01/2013)
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Harmonia Mundi


Code-barres / Barcode : 0093046755560 (ID288)

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Reviewer: David Vickers

The conductorless group sing Passiontide motets

Stile Antico have continued a tradition established by the Tallis Scholars and The Sixteen, though with a bigger sound than either. Their recordings are frequently themed, this being a Passiontide programme consisting of motets spanning the breadth of the 16th century. The earliest piece is from the Englishman William Cornysh, whose vividly detailed Woefully arrayed opens the programme. The rest of the recital closely follows the Passion story, beginning with Christ’s enthusiastic reception into Jerusalem (Gibbons’s Hosanna to the Son of David), followed by the Last Supper (Tallis), the episode on the Mount of Olives (Lassus) and so on till the Resurrection. At the mid-point, however, is John McCabe’s retelling of the text set by Cornysh, specially composed for Stile Antico.

Undoubtedly this is clever programming but the narrative that underpins it doesn’t necessarily guarantee a coherent recital; whether it does so here is a moot point. Stile Antico are probably at their best when the music invites them to sing out. The preference for a choral over a chamber music sound is clearly deliberate (as is the slow tempo adopted for the more solemn English pieces). None the less, solo voices might have suited some pieces (notably the Cornysh) and provided welcome contrast. The real outlier here is McCabe, whose ‘Three Choirs’ rhetoric isn’t really disguised by Stile Antico’s comparatively straight delivery.

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