Victoria and the Music of Imperial Spain
Here is a fine debut recording from a promising new British choir. Admittedly the selection of voices that make up Mixolydian will not be to everybody's taste. Piers Schmidt favours a ripeness of bloom in preference to the silvery clarity of tone so often cultivated by specialist Renaissance-style choirs. Nor is Schmidt afraid to mould the music into very personal shapes. Rarely is the listener left unaware of his confident and self-assured interpretative hand, to the extent that some may find the interpretations laid over the music a little too thickly for comfort. It would be marvellous to hear this robust choir singing Schutz or Charpentier or Purcell, repertoires that seem much better suited to its red-blooded character.
The Missa Ego Flos Campi by Padilla, a Mexico-based Spaniard of Monteverdi's generation, initially stands out as the highlight of this record, with its lively double-choir exchanges, weird textual refrains (the Credo, for example, is liberally peppered with restatements of its opening word) and curious changes of direction. On subsequent hearings, however, its musical invention begins to wear thin, and it is only Schmidt's painstaking direction—a bit too meticulous in places for my taste—that saves the piece from monotony. The Victoria Mass by contrast reveals its richness far less readily and ultimately it offers the greater reward. It has never been recorded before, another point in the record's favour. Here the sopranos show some sign of strain, certainly when compared with the exceptionally strong tenor and bass lines. Nevertheless it is a very good performance indeed, and it will be much enjoyed by those who like their Victoria well hung before consumption. Two motets round off the record: an extremely succinct Stabat mater by Padilla, and Victoria's more luscious double-choir Alma redemptoris mater (incorrectly billed on the record as another Stabat mater setting).'