A towering figure in Renaissance polyphony, Palestrina is arguably one of the greatest composers of Liturgical music of all time. Harry Christophers
and The Sixteen
continue their exploration of his work with a disc of music for the Easter period.
Many of the works on this new recording celebrate the joyful part of Easter - the Resurrection - and the central mass on this disc is the wonderfully inspired Missa Regina caeli
. The Mass is based on the well-known, immediately recognisable, plainchant Antiphon Regina caeli
and the recording also includes the 8-voice motet of the same name.
As with volumes 1 and 2 this disc also includes three of Palestrina's settings of the Song of Songs alongside three offertories for the Easter period and the hymn Ad caenam agni provide
This disc would not be complete, however, without the exquisite 8-voice Stabat Mater
- possibly Palestrina's most famous piece in current times and a work that emphasises the other side of the Easter story - the agony and pain of the Crucifixion.
In the third of their Palestrina series, the Sixteen have chosen music for Easter. They open with the eight-voice Stabat Mater, written c1590 for the papal choir to sing in Holy Week. The subject the grieving mother at the foot of the cross is all the more anguished in this unadorned double-choir setting, sung with full, pure tone and welcome momentum. In addition to Song of Songs settings and Easter offertories, the main work is the Missa Regina Caeli, which Palestrina wrote near the end of his life, when he longed to retire and give over his soul "in contemplation of the Divine". The Sixteen have their own divine qualities, generously on display here. --Guardian,17/03/13
Throughout the 20 verses meditating on Mary's feelings at the cross, every ounce of implied drama, of unsettled feeling, and of deep reflection is brought to bear on a performance of superbly crafted form, nuanced dynamics, overlapping phrasing and effortless tuning. Performance **** Recording **** --BBC Music Magazine, Awards issue'13
The Sixteen's Palestrina cycle may just be a classic in the making. --Gramophone, May'13
It is in the Song of songs we find The Sixteen and Christophers at their most subtly beguiling, the rich imagery of the texts-vineyards, flocks of sheep and goats, cheeks, beautiful as doves - and Palestrina's classical, understated word painting brought out with a graceful, mellifuous sonority and supple phraising. --IRR, July /Aug'13