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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Palestrina, Volume 4, The Sixteen, Harry Christophers

I tend to associate cold weather with early vocal music, the baroque especially. Of course there is no one season for it, but it warms my insides this time of year. So as I play the disk up for review this morning I feel a little more warm. You can do little better than Palestrina, that incredibly deft master of counterpoint. The Sixteen give his music loving care as they give is their Volume 4 (CORO 16114) of his music for unaccompanied choir.

As usual the Sixteen under Harry Christophers are an ideal ensemble for the music. They sing with haunting period luminescence. Anybody who at one time ended up with some of the lesser quality Palestrina devoted LPs of the earlier days knows how much the music virtually stands or falls on a passionate, period-oriented vocal ensemble. Early music performances on disk have progressed, thankfully, so that you meet up with clinkers less, but the Sixteen are as near perfect as you can get, virtually speaking.

The program of Vol. 4 is at a high level, with some relative obscurities, like "Missa O Magnum Mysterium", and some others better known, like "Song of Songs", Nos, 7, 8 & 12, but all are quite beautiful. There's a Gregorian Chant arranged for polyphony in the idiomatic Palestrinian style, written to be sung on Christmas morning.

It's all transportingly lovely. Those old cathedrals must have been very drafty back in the day, but the music had to have warmed them up. It does that to me. Palestrina well sung transcends season and time, but listening right now seems especially fine.

Another winner from the Sixteen!

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