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Taverner: Missa Corona Spinea, Gaude Plurimum, In Pace Import

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, May 1, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Missa Corona Spinea - Gaude Plurinum - In Pace / The Sixteen, dir. Harry Christophers

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Taverner's Missa Corona spinea is possibly the most beautiful English mass of the entire pre-Reformation era. It has the long, florid lines typical of the period, but in place of the complicated, occasionally jerky rhythms common among the previous generation, this music has a flowing quality and a sense of wonder (captured perfectly by the Sixteen). Take, for example, the Benedictus: the tenors slowly float a chant melody while the means (mezzos) skip rapturously above, followed by divided high trebles in soaring close imitation over two bass parts. Even this is outdone by three divided voices (SSMMBB) in the second Agnus Dei. The votive antiphon "Gaude plurimum" which opens the disc isn't so absorbing, but the serene four-voice "In pace" equals anything in the Mass. --Matthew Westphal

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Gaude plurimum
  2. Missa Corona spinea: Gloria
  3. Missa Corona spinea: Credo
  4. Missa Corona spinea: Sanctus
  5. Missa Corona spinea: Agnus Dei I
  6. Missa Corona spinea: Agnus Dei II & III
  7. In Pace


Product Details

  • Performer: Harry Christophers, The Sixteen
  • Conductor: Harry Christophers
  • Composer: John Taverner
  • Audio CD (May 1, 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: HYPERION
  • ASIN: B00004SSJM
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #161,577 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Harry Christophers and the Sixteen were among the very first in recent times to return to the pure vocal style for which all choral and solo voice music was written prior to Beethoven and the dramatic expansion of the orchestra he pioneered. Before Beethoven, singers were able to hold their own against the small orchestras accompanying them. But with Beethoven and the growth of the orchestra, singers - and most especially soloists - encountered a problem. Forcing more air through their lungs created pressure blockages, which led to lung damage. The solution was the vibrato, the warbling of sopranos we are all familiar with today. While this is fine for nineteenth-century and twentieth-century operatic compositions, because the music was written for this style of singing, it is a huge problem for music written before Beethoven. Simply put, the aggressive vibrato practiced by modern singers is as appropriate for older vocal music as an electric guitar would be for Beethoven's piano sonatas.

The Sixteen trained to sing not as modern-day divas and tenors and rumbling basses but in the fashion of young boys and normal men: high, pure, steady notes rather than robust warblings in the higher registers, and clear straight tones for the mid and lower ranges. The result is astonishing and beautiful. For anyone who has suffered through, for example, Allegri's Miserere sung in the modern style, The Sixteen is akin to being given a drink of pure clean water in the middle of the Sahara desert.

The Missa Corona Spinea (mass of the crown of thorns) is one of Taverner's most complex and beautiful pieces, a seamless polyphony that praises the god of the period in a way that is truly sublime. Each section weaves and interweaves, the words lost in a melange of pure sensual sound.
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It was only recently that I 'discovered' John Taverner's music. Because little is know about his life, it is thought he was born around 1490 and died in 1545. No information is available about his early life and musical education, however, in 1525, he was a clerk at the church of Tattershall, then became in 1526 choirmaster at the newly established Cardinal College (now Christ Church), in Oxford, but resigned in 1530. With very few exceptions, all Taverner's compositions are for vocal church music and are a cappella. His oeuvre represents the final stage of the late-medieval English style.
Taverner's compositions are so graceful and so rich, that the voices (especially the soprano), replace beautifully the instruments.
The CD contains 3 works: Gaude plurimum for 5 voices (with passages for 2 and 3 voices), the mass Corona Spinea for 6 voices, and In pace for 4 voices, all performed marvelously by the choir The Sixteen.
The CD was recorded in 1989, then reissued by Hyperion records in 2000. The quality of the sound is very good.
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This series of masses under the baton of Christophers is really wonderful. The high notes are extraordinary and give the pieces an ethereal feel. The Penguin guide gives this a rosette but I can't see why it is superior to the other recordings in the series - they are all wonderful.
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Best among the best.
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