King's College Choir of Cambridge / Stephen Cleobury

Byrd: Motets

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Selecting an album by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, in English Renaissance repertory is usually a safe choice, especially under current director Stephen Cleobury. The boy choristers on the upper lines are as good as those anywhere, combining precision and enthusiasm well channeled by the director. This said, the motets of William Byrd, written for clandestine meetings of recusant Catholics, are perhaps a special case. The big, open sound achieved by the choir has beauty, but loses intimacy in some cases. In the quieter pieces the results are impressive: sample the lovely Ave verum corpus, or Civitas sancti tui. In something like the opening Rorate coeli, you may prefer a smaller-scale performance (and there are plenty about), especially as the motets pile up one after the other, which is not how they were meant to be performed. Your mileage may vary. What's not going to be under dispute is the splendid job done by the choir's engineers in a difficult cathedral situation: the vocal textures of the singers are crystal clear, and the texts and their expression really come through. Recommended, especially for those who like the classic English cathedral choir sound over the newer and smaller groups of virtuoso singers.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:15
2 4:36
3 2:34
4 1:38
5 3:35
6 3:58
7 0:53
8 2:33
9 1:55
10 2:23
11 1:45
12 1:34
13 4:32
14 5:36
15 3:42
16 1:12
17 2:44
18 5:00
19 1:37
blue highlight denotes track pick