More Divine Than Human - Music from The Eton Choirbook
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The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral under their director Stephen Darlington, return to AVIE with their second release for the label. Recorded in the Chapel of Merton College, Oxford, it commemorates the 500th Anniversary of the coronation of King Henry VIII on June 24 1509 with music from the Eton Choirbook, one of the greatest jewels of choir music in the world.
The Eton Choirbook epitomises a style of composition which demanded extraordinary virtuosity from its performers: it is no surprise that an Italian visitor should have described the singing he heard in 1515 as 'more divine than human'. This recording brings to life some of the most glorious music in the collection, using the original forces of men and boys.
The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Stephen Darlington (director)
(4 stars) Hugely appealing...spectacularly beautiful...five 15-minute masterpieces...natural, spacious, rich, expressive performances. -- The Sunday Times, (Stephen Pettitt), July 21, 2009
Superbly sung...under the inspirational direction of Stephen Darlington...a disc to send the spirits soaring. Glorious beyond words. -- Gramophone (Best of 2009), (Richard Osborne), December 2009
Very impressive...I cannot recommend it too highly...two very fine pieces appear on CD for the first time. -- Gramophone, (Fabrice Fitch), October 2009
Top Customer Reviews
The overall sound is well recorded without being too close to hear breathing, or so far away as to be 'ethereal'. Merton College Chapel has proved a great venue for other choirs, and is clearly working for Christ Church. The choral sound is gutsy without being overbearing. The tutti sound is very impressive - Darlington clearly has chosen some extremely capable gentlemen. This is clearly displayed not only in the rock solid foundation on which the trebles build, but also in the verse/soli sections, where the individual qualities of each voice are demonstrated without being over-powering.
The trebles blend well with the altos, at some points (such as the opening of the exquisite Salve Regina by William Cornysh) blending so well as to be indistinct. The treble sound is well focused without being too perfect, and one is constantly reminded of the great effort, focus and determination required by these trebles (already much younger than the trebles for whom the music was originally composed) to sustain musical interest and ability throughout these magnificent yet enormous pieces. The solo trebles are perfectly chosen, well caught by the recording equipment, and display an exceptional vocal talent and brightness without the sound ever being too harsh on the ears.
A first class recording - a considerable achievement, and recommended without hesitation.
Both for the quality of the music and for the quality of the singing.
If you have never heard of the composers before don't let that put you off.
This is a very good performance of very good music.
I have to confess though that my personal taste is for vocals without trebles, but I had genuinely thought that on hearing the samples I was going to be converted. Though not in my collection (yet) I will probably end up preferring the Tallis and Sixteen sets.
The accompanying booklet contains notes plus lyrics with translations.