Thursday, 26 May 2016
Byrd - Motets & Mass for Four Voices - Theatre of Voices/Hillier
I am a great admirer of Paul Hillier's work and have enjoyed many of his discs with Theatre of Voices who are normally excellent, but I found this rather disappointing. The music itself is fantastic: the Mass for Four Voices, propers and motets by Byrd interspersed with some short organ pieces and also a few shorter pieces by other Tudor composers. It's a great and well-programmed collection and in combination with performers of this quality it should have been something really special. It's certainly not bad, but it just doesn't really hit the mark somehow.
Most unusually, the performance by Theatre of Voices to me fails to bring out the full beauty and depth of this wonderful music. They sing one to a part which requires a real perfection of blend and balance to pull it off effectively and, although I hesitate to write this about the work of such a great man as Paul Hillier, I thought the voices simply didn't work together well enough. The balance of the parts was very variable which marred the sense of wholeness, and there is sufficient vibrato in the soprano and tenor voices to prevent the four voices quite blending where necessary. The first time I heard the disc I thought that it must be me, but after repeated listening I don't think it is - this just isn't up to Theatre of Voices usual standard.
I don't want to be too critical, but for a performance of the Mass for Four Voices I'd stick to the Cardinall's Musick or The Tallis Scholars and try Theatre of Voices lovely performance of Josquin and others instead of this.