Music from the Eton Choirbook
Paul Van Nevel has been recording early polyphony with the Huelgas Ensemble for almost 40 years, but has not previously done much English music apart from the occasional Spem in alium and a recent disc of the elder Alfonso Ferrabosco (if that counts – Harmonia Mundi, 10/05). To judge from the names, there are very few English singers involved here: just a group of highly intelligent musicians who have picked up the style from elsewhere. The six women on the top line give a very good emulation of the English choirboy sound.
So it is a warm welcome for Van Nevel’s English foray and particularly for the programme. Johannes Sutton’s Salve regina in seven voices (his only known work) receives a rare and welcome, broad-spanned performance. Sturton’s Gaude virgo mater Christi for choir without trebles (also his only known work) has a beautifully relaxed atmosphere. The collection ends with two much more famous works, John Browne’s Stabat mater – where the shouts of ‘Crucifige! crucifige!’ come across with particular force – and Robert Wilkinson’s massive nine-voice Salve regina, where the shimmering textures are magically caught. A thoroughly positive addition to the catalogue.