This programming concept isn't new--works based on texts from the biblical Song of Songs--but with ensemble singing this good and musical selections of this high caliber, who cares? The one thing that may be original is the particularly interesting mix of old and new, a range that incorporates Dunstable and Lassus as well as the 20th century's Healey Willan and William Walton.
But it's the singing that's the real star here. These six singers--Dorothee Mields, Catherine Webster, Matthew White, Colin Balzer, Sumner Thompson, and Robert Macdonald--sometimes accompanied by baroque strings and winds, sometimes not, are all experienced artists and veterans of some of the world's finestRead more vocal groups and performing venues. All matters of ensemble precision, balance, blend, phrasing, and expressive articulation come naturally to them, whether it's Purcell (My beloved spake) or Palestrina (Osculetur me osculo oris sui). The two Willan selections--the Marian motets Rise up, my love, my fair one, and I beheld her, beautiful as a dove--are exquisite little gems well known to Canadian choirs but deserving of far greater attention elsewhere; it's nice to hear them in these sensitively sung, one-voice-to-a-part renditions. Other highlights are Walton's lovely marriage motet from 1938, Set me as a seal upon thine heart, and Dunstable's Quam pulchra es, sung here by three ideally matched male voices.
The instrumental accompaniments (and one ensemble-only selection--a Passacaille by Marin Marais) are first-rate, consistently complementary to the voices, and everything is expertly captured in the agreeable acoustic of Quebec's Église Saint-Augustin. Liner notes by François Filiatrault are thoughtful and informative, adding helpful background to understanding the program's choices and purpose. Strongly recommended!