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Customer Review

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb, but incomplete, survey of 16C English polyphony, 21 Nov. 2009
This review is from: The Golden Age (English Polyphony From Fayrfax / Taverner / Sheppard / Mundy) (Audio CD)
As Amazon does not provide a contents list, here it is:

CD 1
Robert FAYRFAX (1464-1521)
Æternæ laudis lilium [11:30]
Missa Albanus [37:59]
CD 2
John TAVERNER (c.1490-1545)
Plainchant: Archangeli Michælis interventione [1:18]
Leroy Kyrie [5:17]
Missa O Michæl [37:16]
Dum transisset Sabbatum I [6:42]
Gaude plurimum [13:29]
Ex eius tumba [15:00]
CD 3
Missa Corona spinea [39:07]
In pace, in idipsum [6:04]
O splendor gloriæ [10:24]
Te Deum [13:06]
Alleluia. Veni, electa mea [4:11]
CD 4
Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas [40:47]
In nomine a 42 [2:27]
Audivi vocem de cælo [4:16]
Dum transisset Sabbatum II [6:35]
CD 5
Hodie nobis cælorum rex [4:59]
Mater Christi sanctissima [7:21]
Magnificat a 4 - Nesciens mater [11:46]
Quemadmodum a 62 [4:21]
Missa Mater Christi sanctissima [34:17]
CD 6
The Western Wynde Mass [28:22]
O Wilhelme, pastor bone [3:46]
Missa Sancti Wilhelmi devotio [26:19]
CD 7
John SHEPPARD (c1515-1558)
Missa Cantate [31:26]
Salvator mundi, Domine [4:37]
Verbum caro factum est [6:45]
Laudem dicite Deo [7:32]
Reges Tharsis et insulæ [4:45]
In manus tuas I [3:16]
Filiæ Hierusalem [6:26]
In pace, in idipsum [4:22]
Paschal Kyrie [3:51]
Jesu salvator sæculi, verbum [5:00]
CD 8
The Western Wynde Mass [19:10]
Second Service: Magnificat [5:48] and Nunc dimittis [3:07]
Te Deum [13:48]
Spiritus Sanctus procedens I [7:35]
Iusti in perpetuum vivent [6:28]
Libera nos, salva nos I [2:56]
Libera nos, salva nos II [1:49]
Audivi vocem de cælo [4:05]
Deus tuorum militum I [3:10]
Ave maris stella [5:08]
Jesu salvator sæculi, redemptis [6:19]
CD 9
Spiritus Sanctus procedens II [8:40]
Beata nobis gaudia [6:01]
In manus tuas II [4:08]
Gaude, gaude, gaude Maria [13:41]
Hæc dies quam fecit Dominus [2:04]
Impetum fecerunt unanimes [6:12]
Dum transisset Sabbatum I [6:58]
Sancte Dei pretiose [2:53]
Sacris solemniis [7:57]
Hostis Herodes impie [5:15]
Dum transisset Sabbatum II [7:26]
In manus tuas III [3:31]
Æterne rex altissime [4:31]
CD 10
William MUNDY (c.1529-1591)
O Lord, the maker of all things [2:56]
Videte miraculum [8:35]
Sive vigilem [3:27]
Ah, helpless wretch1 [5:59]
Vox Patris cælestis [17:45]
Kyrie :Orbis factor [3:57]
O Lord, the world's Saviour [3:16]
Magnificat `in medio chori' [7:44]
Nunc dimittis `in medio chori' [3:36]
The secret sins1 [3:42]
Beatus et sanctus [2:22]
Adolescentulus sum ego [6:24]
The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
1 with Christopher Royall, countertenor and Paul Nicholson, organ;
2 Fretwork
rec. 1982-1992. DDD.
Texts and translations included.
HYPERION CDS44401/10 [10 CDs: 49:41 + 79:03 + 72:54 + 54:06 + 62:46 + 58:27 + 78:06 + 79:30 + 79:21 + 71:00]

This 10 disc set is compiled from the Sixteen's extensive catalogue of recordings made in the ten years between September 1982 and December 1992. Thus, they are by no means new interpretations and many collectors might already own most if not all of them on their shelves, but if you don't already have them all, purchasing this handsomely re-packaged set might be an attractive, space-saving option - as long as you don't mind losing the original artwork. Even there, full and informative notes by Stephen Rice and complete texts are provided, and the box is tastefully presented in white, gold, sepia and black, with the CD's in individual slipcases, as is now the wont of record companies. Never mind the "Golden Age of English Polyphony"; this is now the "Golden Age of Bargain Re-Issues".

The Sixteen are rivalled only by the Tallis Scholars in purity and homogeneity of tone; the last time I heard them live in St John's Chapel, Cambridge, constituted one of my most memorable musical experiences. I have read some sour criticism of their "over-use of vibrato" and the over-bearing stridency of their star sopranos in the "mean" line; nothing I hear in these recordings corroborates those complaints, although the Tallis Scholars tend to adopt a somewhat more leisurely, reflective approach to tempi and phrasing and rather more restraint in their inflection the line. I like both; surely there is room for more than one interpretative stance in this sublime music?

Mention of the Tallis Scholars brings me to my one and only gripe - but it might be significant for a newcomer to the English Renaissance polyphonic repertoire. As Brian Wilson has already noted in his review (which I recommend) on MusicWeb International, "There are some gaps in the glorious English music of the 16th century which these ten CDs don't fill, notably of Tallis and Byrd." This matters; it is inconceivable that anyone could imagine that a representative sample of the music of this period could exclude those two great composers; a case might be made for exclusion of Tomkins (1572-1656) and Gibbons (1583-1625) on the grounds that the bulk of their output was produced later than the period covered by this set, but Tallis (1505-1585), in particular, as the ne plus ultra of the bunch, should surely have been represented and Byrd (c.1543-1623) is equally deserving of a look in. Even though the Tallis Scholars' eponymous recorded output dominates the catalogue, the Sixteen have given us some wonderful accounts both of Tallis' major works and Byrd's Masses and motets; unfortunately almost none of these has been on the Hyperion label. If you would like to hear more of the Sixteen in the composers missing in this set, I urge you to acquire their "Spem in alium: Music for Monarchs and Magnates" on Coro, "Tallis: Sacred Choral Works" on Chandos and the Byrd "Masses for 4 and 5 Voices" on Virgin Veritas.

I shall not attempt a more detailed critique of the music and performances here as it would be superfluous; the beauties of this music are well known. This is an unmissable box and a worthy tribute to one of the glories of the English choral tradition - a tribute to both the performers and the music itself.
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Review Details



Location: Bishop's Stortford, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 48