Into the Light

‘Choral beauty’ meets classical guitar – agreeable if you have a sweet tooth

Author: 
Peter Quantrill

Into the Light

  • Con amores, la mi madre
  • Canon and Gigue, Canon
  • O quam gloriosum
  • (5) Preludes, E minor
  • (5) Preludes, A minor
  • (5) Preludes, E
  • (5) Preludes, E minor
  • (5) Preludes, D
  • A negrito de cucurumbé
  • Bachianas brasileiras No. 5, Aria: Cantilena
  • Recuerdos de la Alhambra
  • Romancero Gitano, Procesión
  • God grant we grace
  • Alma redemptoris mater
  • Catalan Folksongs, Canço del Iladre
  • Prince Igor, Polovtsian Dances

It takes skill to do simple things well, but also perhaps a certain artlessness, and in this respect the exquisitely floated soprano lines of the Pachelbel arrangement work against themselves; the light vibrato is just a bit knowing. Aside from the over-prominence of the guitar, the recording (at St Giles’ Cripplegate) doesn’t sound as if it’s been produced to within an inch of its life, though I hazard you would need to consult the booklet to realise the sung text was Oscar Wilde’s Requiescat.

If the ear rebels at a similarly artful arrangement of O quam gloriosum, that isn’t only because Victoria’s motet is so much finer – the traffic between sacred motet and domesticated intablature is well attested – but this duet version for soprano and bass is so dragged out that it loses any sense of the soaring lines of the original. So it’s all the stranger when we hear the full motet sung swiftly but surely in the spirit of The Sixteen’s many previous Renaissance recordings. For all I know, by the way, the song might be contemporary with the motet, but the pop-album booklet is no help, and we must take as we find.

The only real crime here is perpetrated on poor Villa-Lobos, whose Five Preludes never deserved to be smothered by stickily Messiaenic hymns. The Fernandes number with its maracas briefly lifts the spirits, but for the rest we have an agreeable, slightly dismal confection from the Old and New Worlds of Spain. If you want to know where the Polovtsian Dances (wrapped around “Our revels now are ended”) fit in, you’d better ask someone else.

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