Friday, 8 July 2016

Palestrina & Allegri - Masses and Miserere - Oxford Camerata/Summerly

Rating: 4/5

Fine Palestrina, less good Allegri

This is yet another fine disc from Oxford Camerata, although I do have some reservations about it: I think the Palestrina is excellent but I'm a little less happy with their performance of Allegri's Miserere.

The principal works here are two of Palestrina's finest mass settings, Missa Papae Marcelli and Missa Aeterna Christi munera.  Both are beautifully judged and performed here.  Oxford Camerata produce a lovely, warm sound which never becomes blurred or muddy.  There is a lovely fluency of line and engagement with the text and technically the singing is excellent, with impeccable tuning and precise ensemble singing.  The are lovely performances, I think, and an interesting contrast to The Tallis Scholars' classic recording of the Missa Papae Marcelli which is more clear and defined in sound but less warm.  I love both, and which you prefer is just a matter of personal taste, I think.

For me, the Allegri isn't as well judged.  The tempo is quite quick and I find the delivery almost aggressive – it's certainly much more robust than in many versions.  I have the greatest respect for Jeremy Summerly's scholarship and judgement, but I do wonder whether this is really the ideal tone for such a beautiful supplication for mercy.

Nonetheless, this is a fine disc and I can recommend these Palestrina performances very warmly.

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