Stile Antico

A Spanish Nativity

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AllMusic Review by

A glance at the program of this Christmas release by the small (10-voice) choir Stile Antico might not seem to promise much: several of the pieces, notably the opening O magnum mysterium of Victoria, are probably familiar to anyone who has sung in a collegiate choir or glee club. Look, and listen, more closely, and you'll find a program that's intelligently varied, and quite well put together. One noticeable aspect is the inclusion of semi-popular Spanish material (in Spanish), which was ignored when the canon of Spanish Renaissance music was formed but is increasingly coming into view in the works of composers like Mateo Flecha, represented twice here. One of his works is worth the price of the album by itself: the fascinating El Jubilate (sample this) is a sort of potpourri of the sacred and popular styles. Never forgotten was the villancico Ríu Ríu Chíu, which persists to this day as a Christmas carol in Spanish lands (the Monkees even recorded it once). Much of the rest of the program is devoted to a Christmas mass by Alonso Lobo, the Missa Beata Dei genitrix Maria, which is dispersed through the program and surrounded by relevant motets, Renaissance-fashion. Everything is sung with both festivity and precision by Stile Antico, which here adds to its reputation for albums that are at once rigorous, innovative, and accessible to anyone. Appropriate and clear sound from London's All Hallows' Church adds to the attractiveness of the whole.

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