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Gramophone Awards Shortlist 2016

elegance and poise where the young Dufay is more often outgoing and showy. This recital focuses principally on their secular music, although the few sacred examples are just as impressive. Arnold’s Song of Songs setting Tota pulchra es is one of the most immediately appealing things on the disc. Hugo is perhaps better known on account of the obscene acrostic of his rondeau Plaindre m’estuet, but his mellifluous setting of it is another standout, the all-vocal performance here every bit as communicative as that from Gothic Voices many years ago (Hyperion, 12/88), albeit entirely different in approach.

Le Miroir de Musique is one of a number of young groups led by an instrumentalist but combining voices as well. These ensembles make the case for instrumental participation in this repertory as compellingly as Gothic Voices did for all-vocal performance, principally by being very discriminating in their choices for individual pieces. Gone is the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach of 40 years ago; gone, too, is the mangling of poetic forms to showcase instrumental virtuosity (not to say instrumentalists’ egos). Not that these young musicians are slouches technically: an intricate unison line shared on recorder and vielle (in Amour servir) is flawlessly executed. The singers, as I’ve suggested, are on a par with them, the intricate cross-rhythms of Je suy exent being negotiated with distinction. This is one of the most satisfying 15th-century recordings I’ve heard in a while: specialist repertory that doesn’t deserve to be. Fabrice Fitch

‘Scattered Ashes’ ‘Josquin’s Miserere and the Savonarolan Legacy’ Byrd Infelix ego Clemens non Papa Tristitia obsedit me Gombert In te, Domine, speravi Josquin Desprez Miserere mei, Deus Lassus Infelix ego Le Jeune Tristitia obsedit me Lhéritier Miserere mei, Deus Palestrina Tribularer, si nescirem Magnificat / Philip Cave Linn B b CKD517 (84’ • DDD • T/t)

To celebrate their 25th anniversary, vocal ensemble Magnificat directed by Philip Cave have created a programme of Renaissance polyphonic works inspired by Girolamo Savonarola’s (1452‑98) famous meditations written while awaiting execution. One contemplates Psalm 50, Miserere mei, Deus, and another Psalm 30, In te, Domine, speravi. Savonarola was a Dominican friar burnt at the stake for his reformist preaching, his ashes scattered in a river to prevent supporters preserving them as relics.

This disc opens with Josquin’s extraordinarily vast setting of the Miserere. Weighing in at just over 17 minutes, it is a motet of grandiose proportions characterised by repetition of the words ‘Miserere mei, Deus’ (Have mercy on me, God). This functions like a refrain with five voices framing what is mostly a two- or three-voiced texture. Added to this, Cave employs his full complement of singers for each refrain and uses just solo voices in between, further emphasising the variations of texture. The overall tempo is quite slow if compared, say, to La Chapelle Royale under Philippe Herreweghe (Harmonia Mundi, 4/87), but solo voices allow for a suppleness of phrasing that enhances forward momentum, often with arrestingly beautiful segues between textures such as at ‘et impii ad te convertentur’ (‘and the unholy will turn back to you’), where a solo soprano soars over the dying echo of Savonarola’s repeated plea.

In Lhéritier’s more dense polyphonic setting of In te, Domine, speravi, Magnificat’s velvety sound is at its most luxurious. This sonorous ensemble, combined with Cave’s unhurried tempi, create a wonderfully melancholic sound world. Their interpretations of the postJosquin generation of continental composers, Gombert and Clemens specifically, are among the finest on disc.

The programme ends with Byrd’s Infelix ego. It’s a tender performance; phrases roll pleasingly forwards under Cave’s direction and his interpretation nudges Byrd closer to his continental counterparts. My own preference lies with a more demonstrative madrigalian approach such as The Cardinall’s Musick under Andrew Carwood (Hyperion, 4/10), leading to a dramatic final plea ‘Miserere mei, Deus’ scorching the texture with emphatic chords. Here, instead, Cave strikes a prayerful note to end his programme. Edward Breen

‘Western Wind’ Anonymous My Lady Careys Dompe. My Lady Wynkfylds Rownde. O blessed Lord, how may this be. Western Winds. The Western Wynde. Westron Wynde. Wher be ye my love? Aston A Hornepype Cornysh II Fa ka sol. Yow and I and Amyas Henry VIII If love now reynyd (II). Taunder naken Taverner Audivi vocem de caelo. Dum transisset Sabbatum (I). In nomine. Mass ‘The Western Wynde’

Taverner Choir & Players / Andrew Parrott Avie F AV2352 (79’ • DDD • T/t)

Andrew Parrott’s past recordings of Taverner count among his finest achievements, and it is little short of scandalous that they have never been reissued (glad to have got that off my chest!). While we wait, this new offering suggests that the hiatus of 25 years has not dulled his affinity for the music of his ensemble’s namesake. And yet it is a very different sort of disc from those earlier, exclusively liturgical projects. Taking his cue from the secular cantus firmus of this recital’s centrepiece, Taverner’s Western Wynde Mass, Parrott turns his attention to the secular music of Taverner’s contemporaries, not least Henry VIII, whose setting of the ‘T’Andernaken’ tune is one of his most accomplished compositions.

As one might expect, the cast is almost entirely different, though Emily Van Evera and Charles Daniels guest in a few numbers, such as Cornysh’s wistful Yow and I and Amyas. From a discographic standpoint, the instrumental numbers are very valuable, and dispatched with real flair. I particularly enjoyed Cornysh’s Fa la sol, an extended untexted fantasia performed here on the mute cornetto, vielle and bray harp.

The Western Wynde Mass nicely contrasts with The Tallis Scholars’ recording, being incisive and brisk where Peter Phillips’s reading is smoother and more leisurely. Parrott is perhaps more persuasive in conveying its pacing, which runs through what seems on paper a forbiddingly severe formal plan; in the process he highlights Taverner’s virtuosity in overcoming his self-imposed challenge. But perhaps the disc’s most satisfying interpretations are the two responds for high and low voices respectively, Audivi vocem and Dum transisset sabbatum (I), which seem to me on a par with the Taverner Consort at their very best: the latter in particular combines that trademark incisiveness with superlative solo singing. Finally, the sound recording successively juggles a wide range of distributions, from harpsichord to choir, with no apparent discontinuity. Fabrice Fitch Taverner Western Wynde Mass – selected comparison: Tallis Scholars (9/93, 12/95, 1/07) (GIME)

CDGIM004, CDGIM027 or CDGIM207

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