Thursday, 20 August 2015

Palestrina - 5 Masses

Rating: 2/5


I'm afraid that I'm not very keen on this set. It is good to see Palestrina's music being made available at budget price, but these recordings, despite some of the distinguished performers, don't really do it justice in my view.

Palestrina wrote some truly wonderful music and some of the masses here are fabulous works, but for me the music can begin to sound a little samey in the hands of larger choirs, and this is what happens here. The three choirs on this disc are Kings College, Cambridge, St. John's College, Cambridge and The Carmelite Priory, London. They are all excellent choirs but in these older recordings they don't really manage to bring out the expressive, beautiful nature of Palestrina's polyphony and the whole thing begins to merge into a pleasant-sounding but undistinguished mush which occasionally gets louder or quieter but doesn't really engage with the music or the text.

A further problem is that John's and the Carmelites especially have a good deal of vibrato in the choir's voices, particularly the top lines. This prevents the lines from blending as they should and the harmonies don't really ring out.

I am sorry to be critical, but I can't really recommend this set. I think there are some much better recordings of Palestrina and I would suggest trying some of these instead:  Philippe Herreweghe's recording of Missa Viri Galilaei is probably my favourite Palestrina recording, and The Tallis Scholars have also made some fine recordings, now available at budget price: a great version of Missa Papae Marcelli coupled with Allegri's Miserere, and four wonderful masses including Missa Assumpta est Maria on The Tallis Scholars Sing Palestrina.

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