Sacred Voices - Music of the Renaissance
A splendid recording debut for The New Company, a professional chamber choir of 12, directed by Harry Bicket, which is expanded here to 40 voices for a thrilling performance of Tallis’s Spem in alium, one of the great masterpieces of Elizabethan music. The programme opens with a double-choir version of Allegri’s justly famous Miserere, with the second group atmospherically recessed alongside the confident soprano soloist, who soars up again and again to what the conductor calls ‘that celestially floated high C’. And she hits the spot beautifully every time. Then follows Lobo’s hardly less ethereal Versa est in luctum and a characteristic sequence of four serenely flowing five-part motets from Palestrina’s Song of Solomon, sensuously rich in harmonic implication, all written around 1583-4. Suddenly the mood changes and the pace quickens for William Byrd’s Haec dies, with its joyful cross-rhythms and an exultant concluding Alleluia.
Peter Philips’s Ascendit Deus is similarly full of life and energy, and it prepares the way for the contrasting three-part anthem by the lesser-known William Mundy. Its serene simplicity has great beauty, and it again offers a chance for a celestial solo soprano. After the climactic Tallis work, the programme ends with a short but thrillingly jubilant six-part Matins responsory by Richard Dering. The choir was recorded at the Temple Church in London, the venue, some seven decades earlier, for one of the most famous choral recordings of all time, Mendelssohn’s Hear my Prayer, with its famous solo from Ernest Lough, ‘O, for the wings of a dove’ (r. 1927). The soloist here is a worthy successor.'