Monday, 21 September 2015

Carver - Complete Sacred Music - Capella Nova, Tavener

Rating: 4/5

Slightly unengaging performances

It is very good to have the whole of Carver's surviving music available.  He was a fine composer who is best known for his stunning 19-part motet O Bone Jesu but who produced some very good mass settings and other music, too.  Alan Tavener and Capella Nova deserve great credit for having recorded this 3-CD series, but I have never been wholly convinced by their performances.

Technically, the singing is good and in the larger choral passages the impact can be very moving in places, but especially in quieter passages there is a slight thinness and fragmentation of sound, exacerbated by some slight vibrato and poor balance on occasion which can prevent the polyphony really gelling as it should.  I first bought the three-disc set in the mid-90s and, while I'm glad to have it, I haven't played it all that often since – certainly nothing like as much as my discs by The Tallis Scholars, The Cardinall's Musick and others.

These certainly aren't bad recordings, but there's something which doesn't quite engage me in the music or engender a sense of spirituality in the way I think it should. If you're interested in polyphony or early Scottish music then you may well be glad of this series, but personally I can only give it a rather qualified recommendation.

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