London Oratory Schola Cantorum Boys Choir

Sacred Treasures of England

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The Sony Classical label has not released much music in the British choral style, preferring to leave the field to Hyperion and its venerable stable of cathedral choirs. To enter the field, one would suppose that Sony would have to try something different, and indeed they have, on several fronts. The title Sacred Treasures of England might lead the buyer to expect a greatest-hits type of collection, but in fact, the music here, delving deeply into the repertory of the 16th century, is not terribly common. The centerpiece is the Missa Euge bonum of Christopher Tye, a magnificent work that breaks up the homogeneous structures of the early English Renaissance with interplay between the top and bottom lines. This plays to the strengths of the hitherto-unrecorded London Oratory Schola Cantorum Boys Choir, whose boy singers have a rich sound poles apart from the usual cathedral purity. If there's an occasional rough edge, it doesn't matter, because they're clearly thinking about what they're singing. The contrasts in the Tye mass come through vividly, and the short pieces are just as good. Sample the gorgeous Ave verum corpus of Peter Philips, whose mystical calm may put you in mind of Mozart's setting. There are fine motets by Byrd and Tallis, not the usual ones, and really there's not a weak link in an absorbing program. The sound (at All Hallows, Gospel Oak, rather than at the boys' home at the London Oratory School) is perfectly clear. Kudos to Sony for succeeding in a difficult challenge.

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