Early Music: 10 of the best recordings from the past 10 years

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Outstanding recording of works by Josquin, Gesualdo, Daser, Cardoso and more, from The Tallis Scholars, Les Arts Florissants and Huelgas Ensemble

Early Music

Gramophone's Early Music Award is presented every year to a particularly outstanding recording of early music and is voted for by our panel of critics. From Daser's little-known Masses (this year's Award-winner) to Marenzio's madrigals in 2014, here is a sample of early-music performance and recording at its finest. We've included links to the original Gramophone reviews of each album, should you wish to explore further, as well as opportunities to listen via Apple Music.



Daser Polyphonic Masses

Huelgas Ensemble / Paul Van Nevel (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi)

‘In the Kyrie Van Nevel appears to enjoy the interplay between the insistent repeated notes of the chant and Daser’s tuneful imitative polyphony but it is the Credo that is most exciting, with a vivid depiction of Christ’s descent and a truly splendid setting of ‘et homo factus est’.’

Read the full review



Josquin ‘Baisiez Moy’

Thélème / Jean-Christophe Groffe (Aparté)

Thélème sing everything with four adult male voices, occasionally helped by a lute. Just for his lament for Ockeghem, Nymphes des bois, they augment it to seven singers, again with glorious results. But just for a bit of fun they have also used modern instruments: an ondes martenot, a Fender Rhodes and a Buchla synthesiser.

Read the full review



Josquin Masses

Hercules Dux Ferrarie, D'ung aultre amer & Missa Faysant regretz

The Tallis Scholars / Peter Phillips (Gimell)

‘This glossily perfect performance pings with relish and crackles with energy. A superb end to a magnificent cycle of recordings.’

Read the full review


Gesualdo Madrigali, Libri primo & secondo

Les Arts Florissants / Paul Agnew (Harmonia Mundi)

Throughout this recording the unaccompanied voices underplay Gesualdo’s quirks, consigning actions and emotions to subtler, less frenetic planes than others have before, and maintain flowing, conversational tempos.

Read the full review



Cardoso Requiem. Lamentations. Magnificat. Motets

Cupertinos / Luís Toscano (Hyperion)

Though not as opulent as its more richly scored companion, his four-voice Requiem is a compelling work, especially when sung with this degree of commitment. It’s a quality that shines throughout the recording.

Read the full review


blue heron

‘Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks, Vol 5’

Blue Heron / Scott Metcalfe (Blue Heron)  

'The confident rendition of Hugh Sturmy’s Exultet in hac die sets the tone and the more extended Ve nobis miseris by John Mason gives the male voices a chance to show off, but in the Mass things get seriously impressive. I doubt whether I’ll be alone in thinking this one of the discoveries of the year.'

Read the full review



Dowland Lachrimae, or Seaven Teares

Phantasm with Elizabeth Kenny lute (Linn)

Phantasm’s performances are totally convincing and absorbing. Drawing richly on their depth, intensity and homogeneity of tone, their acuity to the music’s ever-active emotional flux leaves them unafraid to use forceful gestures of articulation and dynamics to make a point.

Read the full review


western wind

‘Western Wind’

Music by John Taverner & Court Music for Henry VIII

Taverner Choir & Players / Andrew Parrott (Avie)

‘The disc’s most satisfying interpretations are the two responds for high and low voices respectively, Audivi vocem and Dum transisset sabbatum (I), which seem to me on a par with the Taverner Consort at their very best: the latter in particular combines that trademark incisiveness with superlative solo singing.’

Read the full review


spy's choirbook

‘The Spy’s Choirbook’ 

Alamire; English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble / David Skinner (Obsidian)

‘What we have here is a complete recording of the entire choirbook in its manuscript order: 34 four-voice motets from the first decade of the century by French and Franco-Flemish composers, giving a magnificent panorama of the repertory. Most of them have never been recorded before.

Read the full review



Marenzio Primo libro di madrigali 

La Compagnia del Madrigale (Glossa)

Time and again as I listened, my jaw dropped at both the quality of Marenzio’s cleverly varied five-voice music and the astonishing sonorities of La Compagnia del Madrigale’s beguiling performances.

Read the full review

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