Thursday, 5 May 2016

Stile Antico - Song of Songs

Rating: 5/5

Another fine disc from Stile Antico

This is Stile Antico's third disc and the first in which they have moved outside English repertoire. It is well up to the excellent standard of their first two.

The programme is a selection of settings of verses by various composers from the Song of Songs, which the sleeve notes describe as the most "profane" (for which read "erotic") book of the Bible. Used by composers to represent the love of God and of Mary, the texts are often intense, often passionate and speak of beauty, all of which is represented in the magnificent music presented here. It is a rich and varied programme, and the variety of composing styles makes it a really rewarding disc.

The performances are very good indeed. Stile Antico are increasingly regarded as among the top ensembles for this repertoire and their quality is well in evidence here: flawless intonation, a real empathy with music and text and a lovely, rich vocal blend. The acoustic is quite resonant which gives a rounded sound in which individual lines are not always completely distinct but whose overall effect is very lovely. Quite a few of these motets have been recorded by truly great ensembles like the Tallis Scholars and the Hilliard Ensemble; these versions stand up very well beside them, which is high praise indeed.

Harmonia Mundi's recorded sound is excellent and the packaging and notes are very good. It's a really cracking disc and recommended in the warmest terms.

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