An Immortal Legacy

Five centuries of English choral music from The Sixteen

Author: 
Fabrice Fitch
COR16111. An Immortal Legacy. Sixteen/Harry ChristophersAn Immortal Legacy

An Immortal Legacy

  • (9) Psalm Tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter
  • Salvator Mundi
  • April is in my mistress' face
  • (The) Silver swan
  • This sweet and merry month of May
  • Sebedit Dominus Rex
  • (5) Negro Spirituals from 'A Child of Our Time'
  • O nata lux de lumine
  • O sacrum convivium
  • Loquebantur variis linguis
  • Mitte manum tuam
  • Laudibus in sanctis
  • Choral Dances from 'Gloriana'
  • Tallis's Ordinal - Come Holy Ghost
  • Tallis Canon

This compilation recreates one of The Sixteen’s concert programmes, focusing on English choral music from Tallis to Tippett (with a detour via James MacMillan’s Scotland). The bulk of it draws on a recording session earlier this year but some of the material goes back as far as 1991. As Harry Christophers observes, the singers may change but the style remains remarkably consistent and confident.

That will please The Sixteen’s many admirers but, given the programme’s many styles, one might have expected more variety in the interpretations. An obvious place to begin would have been the madrigals, here rendered not with soloists but by the choir. To my mind this smacks of the choral approach of an earlier time, or of the modern amateur choral society (in this repertory at least). The same goes for the Tallis hymn tunes, for which a more intimate tone seems appropriate. I’m similarly unconvinced by the delivery of the Spirituals from Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, in which the singers seem to be trying too hard (for an ‘authentic’ pronunciation) and at the same time not enough (for a different tone and delivery). Even the jaunty tone of Britten’s Choral Dances from Gloriana seems oddly out of place with the rest. In short, it is as though Harry Christophers’s programming instincts had left him on stage, for what comes across as varied when performed live can seem strangely mismatched on CD.

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