The small south Florida choir Seraphic Fire has made several excellent albums, and this is another. There is a caveat: buyers in search of an album of Gregorian chant, despite the seemingly straightforward title, will not be getting exactly what they think they're getting. A look at the track list makes it clear: the program contains not only chant but polyphonic pieces from the High Renaissance that use these chants. The title is accurate in promising that all the music is associated with Mary. They are not exactly "settings," as the short booklet note asserts, but the chant is worked in a variety of ways into the polyphonic texture. Each polyphonic choral work is paired with its chant, and the variety of overall effect gives the casual listener an idea of how a Renaissance composer thought about chant and its possibilities. The program includes pieces from several chant traditions (actually the majority are not "Gregorian") as well as a good mix of Renaissance works from greatest hits (Josquin Desprez's Ave Maria...virgo serena) to more unusual pieces. Seraphic Fire, at 13 voices, remains one of the best small choirs in the U.S., with a delicate blend that rivals much-ballyhooed European ensembles. The album can thus be recommended to anyone looking for an introduction to sacred music from the medieval era to the Renaissance, but not to buyers wanting a solid hour of Gregorian chant.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim