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4.6 out of 5 stars
Allegri - Miserere
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 2007
Being essentially a Bowie-nut, and a decidedly secular one at that, I get quickly out of my depth when it comes to any classical music, let alone sacred choral music, so I am wary about looking like an ass when I review it. But here goes: even with that reservation I declare this record a truly extraordinary, beautiful, haunting listening experience.

Signum Records seem to be doing their best to hide the fact that they're recording and releasing exquisite classical music. Much of Signum's catalogue is available only through their website, which they don't seem to have even submitted to search engines for indexing. Allegri-Miserere is one of the few Signum releases available on Amazon. If you do nothing else, snap it up before Signum decides to hide this one too!

To my way of thinking, there are three aspects a record like this: The quality of the material performed, the quality of its execution by the choir, and the quality of the recording.

In this case, all three are sublime, across the length of the album.

The title track is, of course, one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written - so beautiful the Vatican forbade, on pain of excommunication, anyone but its own Sistine Chapel Choir to play it (the story, briefly recounted in the liner notes, of how a young Mozart nicked it from under the Vatican's grasp by memorising it in one sitting is a beauty). While I've heard plenty recordings of the Miserere this one - it is a beautifully crisp recording - reveals the complexity and ornamentation of the vocal lines like no other version I've heard, even as between the tenors and basses positioned at the front of the soundstage (I think the Miserere is structured as a song-and-reply between two small choral groups). The sopranos and altos are positioned at the back of the soundstage, and the famous solo treble line is softened and embedded in a glorious natural reverberation giving it a haunting, solemn quality. When the lead soprano (I was surprised to see there are no boy trebles in the choir, by the way - I know it's not supposed to be the same, but I couldn't tell) hits her high C - and it's high in the stratosphere all right, practically in dogs-only territory - and falls away from it down a major scale it really takes your breath away. I almost fell down an escalator at King's Cross St. Pancras with excitement. And I just love the way Miserere resolves delicately into a major, at the very last. Clever man, that Allegri.

Elsewhere, the repertoire fully spans Tenebrae's stated coverage era of 17th-21st century, from Lotti's beautiful 8 Part Crucifix to the more modern works by Taverner, Ireland, Rachmaninov, Britten and Holst.

Not only is the music beautifully selected and recorded, the performance is just extraordinary in its accuracy and tone, dynamism and control. Though the sopranos steal the limelight in the Miserere, the rich bass and beautifully constant tenors are well to the fore throughout, and kick some righteous heavenly butt on Sheremetriev's Now Ye Heavenly Powers. It's spine-tingling, neck-shivering material, and when the basses hit their final bottom note, as low in the subterranea as the sopranos are high in the Miserere, I fell down the stairs with surprise and delight at East Finchley. Marvellous.

I really couldn't recommend this more highly.

Olly Buxton
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Miserere composed by the 17th century composer Gregorio Allegri from Rome is the main work out of 13 on this CD performed a cappella by the vocal group Tenebrae, led by Nigel Short. It is also the earliest of the works performed here. There is another piece from the following century - the 8-part Crucifixus by the Venetian composer Antonio Lotti, who was the principal choir-master at St. Mark's Basilica in Venice. The traditional lament Brother Green or The Dying Soldier is arranged by Nigel Short to the tune of a Scots ballad, Barbara Allen. The other tracks are all from the 20th century. Rachmaninov's Hymn to the Cherubim is taken from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. John Tavener's The Lamb sets words by William Blake and his Song for Athene takes its text from the Eastern Orthodox devotions. Benjamin Britten's Hymn to St. Cecilia is another well-known work on this disc which provides an uplifting and very satisfying concert of a cappella devotional choral singing. I have been fortunate in hearing this choir in one of their cathedral candlelight concerts and the atmosphere is quite spellbinding.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2007
I have to agree that the singing is fine but I have to disagree about the directing and interpretation. There is nothing special going on here. Why, one wonders, would Short/Tenebrae release a collection of such well known pieces and do absolutely nothing new or special with them? The Allegri is the best example of static with all its verses. DO something with it. There are better recordings of this piece. Try my favorite by Magnificat. I also don't agree with some of the Allegri liner notes but no matter. This is a gorgeous collection of music and my best guess is that Tenebrae are thinking that putting all these pieces on one disk will sell them - no need to do more. Not a bad marketing angle actually. It's sung well overall and a lovely addition to my collection because it does have all these lovely pieces grouped together. But I wouldn't use one of the tracks as a fine example of the piece for my choirs. Oddly, the piece I like most is the new arrangement of "Dying Soldier" by Short, sung so very beautifully by Matthew Brook.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 May 2008
"The disc ends with that locus classicus of English choral singing, Faire is the Heaven, in which one would be forgiven for thinking Spenser's final words, `such endlesse perfectnesse' refer to the choir themselves rather than the state of Heaven." - BBC Music Magazine

"The fleetness of the second poem in Britten's Hymn to St Cecillia is a delight, and WH Harris's Faire is the heaven sublime" - Richard Lawrence, Classic FM Magazine

"Tenebrae's special merits, their exceptional diction and sharp focus, are suited on the two Russian liturgical pieces and Britten and Auden's Cecilian homage, which reminds us how the composer brought out the best in the poet. The singing here is particularly crisp and agile." - Barry Witherden, Gramophone

"vibrant and incisive" - International Record Review

"Nigel Short and Tenebrae have just the right balance of control and passion, reverence and exuberance that makes for such a superb performance" - The Organ
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on 10 July 2015
this album is hauntingly beautiful, not just a classic but anyone that has a love of music will enjoy it.
Track 9, Allegri Misere, is, in itself, worth the cost of the total album.
One can just sit, listen and drift off into another, relaxed, world.
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on 4 May 2012
Thus cd was purchased to help my wifw with preparing to sing the miserere in a public choral performance. The diction was is very good and was a great help
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on 6 February 2013
I have enjoyed listening TENEBRAE. I would recommend it to people who are seeking for a peaceful and relaxing time.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 29 November 2007
There's an awful lot of hype in some of these reviews. Well sung is true, but nothing special is true as well. Look at the singers and you'll see familiar names from top UK choirs. Not a unique recording by any means in that the director does not do anything new, interesting or exciting with the music. All in all a fab selection of music, which thankfully speaks for itself, on one CD. And very well sung - I don't mean to say it's not. But overall this recording surely doesn't walk on water as some might have you believe.
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Excellent Fast Delivery Thank you HIGHEST RECOMMENDATIONS
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 15 November 2006
Tenebrae + Signum = One of the best choral recordings available.
This is an excellent recording. It is beautifully directed by Nigel Short and recorded by Signum. I have purchased all of Tenebrae's recordings and have always been impressed by the quality of the choral singing. The whole disc is beautifully programmed, also being delighted that Ex Ore Innocentium gets a recording on a high profile title. The only gripe on the whole disc is that the soprano singing in the John Ireland is not choral, but ensemble singing. I would have loved to have heard a more blended performance of this work, but hey its only interpretation!
Buy this disc, if your disappointed you will find someone who will buy it from you. Fantastic recording.
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