Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Sixteen, Star of Heaven, The Eton Choirbook Legacy, Harry Christophers

The Sixteen under Harry Christophers is undoubtedly one of the very best Early Music Choral Groups operating today. But as we see here and elsewhere they do not shy away from the Modern Choral world when they feel an engagement. I've been following them quite happily in the last decade, and now there is a new recording. Presenting Star of Heaven, The Eton Choirbook Legacy (CORO 16166). The Eton Choirbook is the English collection of sacred music that preserved some monumental examples of a special stage of pre-Purcellian choral composition of great importance to our understanding and appreciation of local and pan-European Early Sacred Music for voices.

This album is most unusual in that it intersperses some choice Eton compositions among a special World Premier set of recordings of five Modern Contemporary Choral works that ultimately hammer out an ultra-Contemporary perspective on the Eton Legacy. Stephen Hough's "Hallowed" appears before us with a special polyphonic-ambient luster along with four works specially commissioned by the Genesis Foundation to exemplify and enact the current-day Pope's reforms in Catholic Church policy towards church music. They are "Neciens mater" by Joseph Phibbs, "Ave Maria, mater Dei" by Phillip Cooke, "O Virgo prudentissima" by Sir James MacMillan and "Stella caeli" by Marco Galvani.

For the works by Phibbs, Cooke and Galvani, the Modern work is situated alongside an Eton work utilizing the same sacred text, so "Nesciens mater" in the Plainsong version and by Walter Lambe, "Ave Maria, mater Dei" by William Cornysh, and "Stella caeli" by Walter Lambe. Finally the 15-minute "Salve Regina" by Robert Wylkynson from the Choirbook sets off nicely the Hough work that follows it.

The Sixteen are jewels in today's Early Music Performance crown, surely, and if anyone can bring out the subtle interplay of old in new and old in our new it is them. They do not disappoint. One has much to apprehend in the best ways with this program and its realization. The Modern works have implied or actual polyphonic thrust in equal measure to their contemporary outlook. Hearing them alongside Eton Choirbook counterparts is a brilliant idea and the Sixteen succeed wonderfully well.

This may be heady fare for some yet it is an important milestone to my mind in showing us some of the rootfulness of the new Modernity. It is also sheer beauty to hear! Highly recommended for both Early and Modern adepts and acolytes.

No comments:

Post a Comment