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This review is from: The Eton Choirbook (Audio CD)
Do we need another recording of Eton Choirbook music? There are after all plenty knocking about, from the Tallis Scholars, a five disc set from The Sixteen, from Tonus Peregrinus and a couple from Christ Church Cathedral Choir.
There are some newly recorded pieces here from some of the lesser known composers featuring in the book - the blurb claims that three of the five pieces are world premiere recordings, which is not quite true as William Horewood's Magnificat for 5 voices has been done before. But John Sutton's Salve Regina for 7 voices and Edmund Sturton's Gaude Virgo Mater Christi for 6 voices are apparently genuine firsts. The other two are from more famous figures, namely John Browne's Stabat Mater for 6 voices and Robert Wilkinson's Salve Regina for 9 voices.
Director Paul van Nevel does an outstanding job here with his singers of capturing the intricacy of this unique music with its abundant florid ornamentation and stunning modulations & dissonances, and works the changes of personnel throughout the pieces so well. One can sense more of an effortless flow to these renditions, whereas with some other ensembles you can almost 'hear' the relentless 'beat' of the conductor at work. Van Nevel really brings something new to this music. So yes, perhaps it can be said that we do need this recording.
Where I have a bit of a problem however is in the recorded sound quality. A little too heavy in the mix with the sopranos for my taste (this happens all too often with this kind of music to be honest), but also there are some grating moments (mostly in the first couple of pieces, but not quite so much of a problem with the later works) where the harsh hissing of sibilants are captured, which are a bit off-putting. So as much as I would want to otherwise give this release a full five-star rating, I feel I cannot do so. Four stars seems ungenerous, but I am limited by Amazon's rather coarse-grained rating system.
The booklet includes some basic notes plus Latin sung texts and translations.