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5.0 out of 5 stars
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The Golden Age (English Polyphony From Fayrfax / Taverner / Sheppard / Mundy)
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:£44.69+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

#1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon 25 May 2014
I agree wholeheartedly with Ralph Moore's review here - this is an excellent set. The absence of Tallis and Byrd means that the title may be a little misleading, but the music and performances within this box are all simply wonderful.

These are recordings made in the eighties and early nineties. It is tantamount to sacrilege to say this nowadays, but I'm not all that keen on some of the Sixteen's more recent recordings which have a very beautiful sound but which I sometimes find slightly saccharine in interpretation. In these earlier recordings they are slightly less polished in tone and blend than they are nowadays and I find that I like that very much because it gives the music real character and a sense of genuine spirituality. They are technically excellent with very good intonation, so the high treble parts soar without apparent effort and the resonant lower parts really ring out. It's a genuine treat to listen to this. The blend and balance of the voices is ideal and the singing has a lovely fluency of line and a real engagement with the text. They are simply wonderful recordings, and their reissue at budget price is very welcome.

Personally, I would say that this box is worth it for the wonderful series of Taverner masses alone, and there's plenty more great stuff here. Very warmly recommended.

(I would also very strongly recommend The Sixteen's Eton Choirbook set which also contains some stunning Tudor polyphony: The Eton Choirbook Collection: the Rose and the Ostrich Feather/Crown of Thorns/Pillars of Eternity/Flower of All Virginity/Voices of Angels )
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 21 November 2009
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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on 9 March 2011
I couldn't attempt to elaborate on the brilliant and professional review already given by Mr Ralph Moore, except to say that everything he says about the soaring, transcendent quality of this collection is true. The ten CDs are sublime and will bring you endless hours of pleasure. For those of you who have never listened to polyphony before - give this a try. It just might convert if not make an addict of you.
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