One factor about early sacred vocal music that doesn't cease to fascinate my ears: generally the rhythmic structure of the music follows the text, so that meter is plastic, often irregular. Couple that with the intricate counterpoint and the sort of very pliable harmonic progressions that come across as the result of overlapping contrapuntal parts, and there is the recipe for music that feels liberating when listening from the present-day position.
Of course there's much more than that about early music that makes it interesting. And so when I turn to the latest offering by the a cappella vocal ensemble of Stile Antico, Passion & Resurrection, Music inspired by Holy Week (Harmonia Mundi), I find much to interest me, in fine performances.
It's a disk of English Renaissance choral works by some of the masters: Gibbons, Tallis, De Lassus, Taverner, Byrd, etc. England was producing some marvelous composers and music flourished.
For an added touch there are two settings of the poem "Woefully Arrayed". A period setting by Cornysh and then one written recently for Stile Antico by McCabe. It's a contrast that spices up the disk nicely.
This is state-of-the-art early music choral performance and all who love the period will find it of great interest, I would think.
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