Ludford Missa Benedicta; Antiennes Votives
It’s a long while since David Fallows welcomed The Cardinall’s Musick’s recording debut with superlatives (ASV, 7/93). Ludford’s six-voice festal Mass cycle on Videte miraculum was followed by three other volumes, but these seemed not to quite fulfil the promise of the first; so the chance to hear again his other six-voice settings is most welcome. Though not as showy as Taverner, his more understated idiom is every bit as persuasive. Repeated listening reveals great subtlety in the handling of texture, an exhilarating sense of confidence in formal planning, and real melodic inspiration. The opening of each movement is identical, and excludes the trebles, whose subsequent appearance in a different context is nicely managed. From the point of view of repertoire this is a major issue.
I’ve long admired New College’s trebles, and here they show how much young singers can achieve in the way of cohesiveness, coherence and sheer persuasiveness of melodic shape. That speaks volumes, considering that, of all the English choral repertory written for trebles, this is perhaps the most difficult for today’s youngsters to master. I’d invite listeners to compare them to the recent recording by their near-neighbours Christ Church College of that cornerstone of this repertory, Taverner’s Missa Glori tibi trinitas (Avie, 10/07), in which the trebles seemed to me to lack this sense of line, of unanimity of purpose. Here it’s difficult to argue that adult female singers are demonstrably better equipped than boys: the advantage of bigger lungs is offset by the careful choice and placement of breaths. For the rest, I’ve always held that the tone of these particular trebles is anyway expressive in itself. More, please.