Most helpful positive review
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful performances and some nice surprises
on June 17, 2005
This is a nice anthology of Renaissance music encompassing key composers of both the Prima and Seconda Prattica, including one or two less known names. The uniting theme is that of they are all in praise of the Virgin Mary. Most of these works are old war horses such as the Josquin Ave Maria which is beautifully performed. Their tempo for the Josquin is similar to that of the spacious approach of the Hilliard Ensemble, and unless you like this music performed at breakneck speed you will likely find this performance perfectly satisfying. If you are interested in an anthology of Renaissance music then this is a great choice, however for those of us with a strong interest in music of this period what really makes this essential listening is the two extraordinary pieces by Vasily Titov.
Titov composed at the time of Tsar Peter the Great's modernisation drive in Russia. He brought in composers from the West and Titov's music represents a marriage of the Italian compositional styles of the Seconda Prattica with the traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church. Like the grand architecture of St Petersburgs, and the Hermitage this is an fascinating mixture of Western influences with distinctly Russian ones. The twelve part polychoral writings have some of the dark solemnity of Russian Orthodox music while clearly being heavily influenced by the likes of Monteverdi, Gabrielli, Lassus and Palestrina. Perhaps a more authentically Russian approach to this music would have given far more prominence to the basses, but this still has trumendous impact. It makes it strange that there is so much interest in composers such as Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Moussorsky, Shostakovich and the like but the Early Music movement have yet to catch up with Eastern Europe - Titov is very easily their equal and I would welcome more substantial recordings devoted to exploring this neglected composer.
This is a great recording recommended both to a general audience as well as to lovers of Renaissance music alike. The recorded sound is natural and full bodied. You can pick out individual voices in the chorus without them being drowned into an amorphous porridge of sound - a sign of a good recording. Still, I have heard wider sound staging and a wider dynamic range, so for all its virtues this is almost - but not quite - audiophile quality. Clearly a SACD format DSD recording would have been preferable.