Allegri/Lotti/Palestrina Sacred Choral Works

Author: 
Tess Knighton

Allegri/Lotti/Palestrina Sacred Choral Works

  • Miserere mei
  • Crucifixus a 8
  • Missa Papae Marcelli
  • Stabat mater
  • Miserere mei
  • Crucifixus a 8
  • Missa Papae Marcelli
  • Stabat mater

This is essentially a recording of polyphonic pops. While there is nothing wrong with that per se, it is apparent that the purpose of this release is for the sales figures rather than anything to do with 'authenticity' despite its forming part of an ''Authentic Program'' from Collins Classics. The priorities are clearly reflected in the presentation: there are no texts, the singers' names are not included and a portrait of Harry Christophers adorns the booklet rather than anything that might relate to Palestrina et al [this will be rectified on subsequent reprintings—Ed.]. There is nothing particularly 'authentic' about the performances: Pro Cantione Antiqua on Pickwick come much closer to that with their all-male voice recordings of both the Stabat mater and the Missa Papae Marcelli, while the Allegri resolutely refuses to take on board the latest musicological findings realized by the Taverner Consort (EMI)—of course, it's not quite so appealing without the top Cs. It is rather a paradox that the more 'authentic' versions of the Palestrina appear on the Pickwick label which has no pretensions other than to be populist.
Having got all that off my chest, I have to say that these are perfectly good performances in the English mixed choir tradition, also represented by The Tallis Scholars on Gimell. I liked the Mass in particular: the flow is generally good, the performance direct and the sound clean—in a word, unfussy. If occasionally the words are rather too punched out (as in some passages of the Gloria), the gentler approach found in the Benedictus is very attractive. It seems, too, that The Sixteen found their most successful blend in this piece: both the Allegri and the Stabat mater are less comfortable, and, surprisingly, a few wobbles of pitch have crept into some of the entries in the latter. PCA's interpretation of the Allegri is perhaps still more romantically-inclined than what we have here, but it does achieve a better blend, to the extent that it makes one wonder how much time The Sixteen allowed to record this during the sessions. The darker tone quality of the male voices and the lower pitch in PCA's Stabat mater seem better suited to the music, though The Sixteen are here perhaps a little more fluid.
The Lotti is thrown in for good measure: some polyphonic writing there may be, but it nevertheless belongs firmly to the baroque. All in all, a perfectly acceptable disc, but it is to be hoped that the ''Authentic Program'' will at least balance the pops with something a little more adventurous.'

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