Harry Christophers / The Sixteen

The Earth Resounds - Josquin, Brummel, Lassus

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The focus of this album by veteran British a cappella choir the Sixteen is a little diffuse, but it hardly matters, for the music is ideally suited to the talents of this fine mixed-gender adult group. The cover with Brueghel's painting of the Tower of Babel suggests one thing while the title The Earth Resounds another, and the booklet comment that "in each case the composer has pushed beyond the normal bounds of artistic and technical orthodoxy to release the dramatic potential of the words" something else yet again. And in fact what the listener finally gets isn't well summarized by any of these ideas: the texts, most of which are conventional, aren't particularly dramatic, and the music doesn't break boundaries in a signficant way. "The Earth Resounds" comes closest: these are substantial, imposing works that gain in impact as the requirements of such a piece are filtered through the languages of Josquin, Brumel (represented by two movements of the 12-part Missa et ecce terraemotus, which perhaps gives the album its name), and Lassus. Lassus worked a couple of generations later, but directors Harry Christophers and Eamonn Dougan connect his work to Josquin's convincingly, letting Josquin's highly expressive lines evolve into Lassus' clearly defined areas of what would later be called harmony. Christophers and Dougan get an especially rich sound out of the Sixteen, which can still do purely seductive surfaces better than just about anybody else and can rely on strong engineering support. A release that will satisfy both Sixteen fans and those just starting out with sacred choral music of the 16th century.

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