Though most every lover of fine music knows about the female vocal group The Anonymous 4 this new recording introduces to many of us the magnificent musicianship of the New York Polyphony, a quartet of male voices who sing unaccompanied with a blend of vocal resources that is hauntingly beautiful and richly diverse. Fprmed in 2006, the artists are Geoffrey Williams, countertenor, Steven Caldicott Wilson, tenor, Christopher Dylan Herbert, baritone, and Craig Phillips, bass. Critcs reviewing their performances throughout the U.S. and Europe, including the Miller Theatre Music Series at Columbia University; Dallas Chamber Music Series; Ireland's Ardee Baroque Festival; Denmark's Vendsyssel Festival; Festival de Música de Morelia, Mexico; and the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center have praised them for `a rich, natural sound that's larger and more complex than the sum of its parts.'
The recording endBeginning was recorded in the superb acoustics of the 14th century church of Länna, Sweden, and features rare and never-before recorded works from the Franco-Flemish Renaissance by composers Crecquillon, Brumel and Clemens non Papa. The program concludes with Jackson Hill's brilliant paraphrase of Machaut's 14th century rondeau, My end is my beginning, commissioned by the ensemble in 2009. To quote the insert `The music was partly used liturgically, for instance Brumel's Mass for the Dead, which incorporates the first known polyphonic setting of the Dies irae as its extensive centerpiece. Similarly the Lamentations by Crecquillon--a setting which is possibly appearing on disc for the first time--would have been used in churches during Holy Week, with the destruction of Jerusalem as mourned by the prophet Jeremiah standing as a symbol of the Passion of Christ. The two Gregorian chants Libera me and In paradisum both form part of the Roman Catholic burial service, the first a prayer for the soul's delivery from eternal death and the second an evocation of the hereafter. Of a more subjective nature, the two texts Absalon fili mi ("Absalom, my son") and Tristitia obsedit me - Infelix ego ("Sadness has besieged me - Alas, wretch that I am") have moved their respective composers to settings of rare intensity.'
This is a recording of rare beauty and establishes a solid entry into the world of chamber music for the male voice. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, March 12