“These performances have about them an aura of musical supremacy, which, coupled with the choir's technical magnifience and the recording's sumptuous sound, makes this an outstanding disc, even by the phenomenally high standards The Sixteen has long since made its own.” – International Record Review
DAVY O Domine caeli terraeque creator. Ah, mine heart, remember thee well. MUNDY Adolescentulus sum ego. Vox patris caelestis. SHEPPARD Gaude, gaude, gaude Maria. Libera nos I & II. In manus tuas I. In manus tuas III Read more class="BULLET12"> • Harry Christophers, cond; The Sixteen • CORO 16119 (70:58 Text and Translation)
Harry Christophers makes mention in the forward to this album that it returns to the grassroots of The Sixteen. And indeed it does, for in the 1980s and 1990s they issued numerous albums devoted to John Sheppard’s music, and selections from the Eton Choirbook. If you have any of that earlier material, to be found in the Hyperion and Coro catalogs, it makes for interesting comparison with this release. Sheppard’s Gaude, gaude, gaude Maria, for example, was taken at roughly a half-tone higher in an older recording, now on Hyperion Dyad 22022, and the phrasing there made broader use of dynamics. (But note, of two versions of Sheppard’s third setting of In manus tuas, it’s the earlier recording that is approximately a half-tone lower, so the shift in pitch isn’t a trend; and it’s the later recording that makes more extended and varied use of dynamics.) The newer, ever so slightly slower version (14:08, as opposed to 13:41 on Hyperion) concentrates a bit more on blending between the voice parts.
Indeed, as this album demonstrates, there really isn’t any significant, consistently audible difference between the recordings of this specific music by these singers, save for a slightly rounder top on their newer albums. This is as likely to be a matter of venue and engineering as it is any change in musical approach. That there has been a rethinking of each piece is evident in many small details—the way one voice part achieves greater prominence in a given passage, or the lengthier or shorter period of fading on a given phrase—all of which point to the painstaking re-examination of these works by Christophers. But the new disc in no way invalidates the ensemble’s earlier performances. If you aren’t familiar with The Sixteen, this is as good a place to start as any, sampling the delights of some of three of the finest Tudor composers of sacred music.