Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Ludford - Missa benedicta etc. - New College/Higginbottom

Rating: 4/5

Very good Tudor polyphony

This is a very good disc of some lovely polyphony from Tudor England. Ludford was a very fine composer who forms a sort of bridge between Fayrfax and Taverner, and the mass and antiphons here form a good sample of his work.

Ludford's music is typical of the English style of the period, with wonderful, rolling sonorities and ætherial high treble lines. The effect is very beautiful and quite stunning at times, and Ludford had the skill to write in an individual, distinctive way which never becomes samey or mediocre.

Edward Higginbottom has made many, many fine recordings with his New College choir over the years and this is very good, too. The choir have excellent technique and blend and a fine sense of the text. This is a full liturgical setting of the mass with plainchant propers, so you need to like your polyphony set in a plainchant base. I do, very much, and the chant is a strength of this disc. The choir is at its best when really rolling out the sonorous lower register parts, and these are exceptionally good. I found the sound on some of the higher passages a little thin and uncertain for my taste, but this may just be me. I prefer the more precise sound of a small ensemble rather than a cathedral or chapel choir in this repertoire, but if you like a churchy sound, this will suit you very well - and the recording quality is excellent.

My taste is more for The Cardinall's Musick's superlative recording of this mass and of Ludford's other three Festal Masses but this is a very good disc with some sublime highlights and I can recommend it very warmly.

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