The Sixteen, and leader Harry Christophers, have strong-selling, broadly appealing items galore in their catalog, and it is noteworthy to see the group undertake a project with less commercial potential, an ongoing series of music by Palestrina. The series began in the mid-2010s and here reaches its eighth volume. Palestrina is a composer for whom the same few works seem to be recorded over and over, and any complete picture of the classicizing phase of late Renaissance polyphony should include a broader picture of his works. Christophers has made good selections all around (this is not a complete edition of Palestrina, for such a thing would be impractical), and he has tended to arrange his programs according to liturgical use, and the music here is centered on the Easter season, and especially on the "Last Supper." The central Missa fratres ego enim accepi is a parody mass based on the motet of the same name (translated as "Brothers, I have received [from the Lord]"). The motet is also included, although, curiously, not adjacent to the mass. This Easter music tends to have a sparseness that suits the choir size well (there are actually 18 singers, not 16). Sample the Credo of the mass, which approaches its central Incarnatus in a beautifully subtle way. The mass tends to elaborate its motet model melodically rather than polyphonically, and the textures are limpid; in Christophers' performance, the music has its desired intimate quality and seems to breathe. There are also, as in Vol. 7 of this series, three settings from the Song of Songs, an exceptionally interesting part of Palestrina's output in which he attempted to live down his youthful flirtations with secular music. Recommended, fine Eastertime listening.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Missa Fratres ego enim accepi|