Lee Ward

Ave Maria

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Regent's collection of settings of the Ave Maria covers a lot of ground, with works ranging from the fifteenth century (Josquin Desprez) to 2006 (David Terry, the organist on this album). The music itself includes the most famous settings (the Schubert and Bach/Gounod versions), as well as a number that are obscure, with the selection weighted toward the Renaissance and the contemporary. The newer works are of the most interest, since this is the only recording of some of them. The setting by Simon Biazeck plays with Renaissance conventions and stands out as especially lovely and compelling. The London Oratory School Schola, established in 1996, is the only ensemble in the U.K. dedicated to choral training for Catholic boys. The group is joined by various adults to make up the ensemble heard on this CD. The group uses considerably more vibrato than most comparable ensembles, not to good effect. The mature voices sound practically wobbly, a serious flaw in the Renaissance repertoire. The soloists, too, tend to use excessive vibrato. The boys, on the other hand, have an appropriately clean, straight sound; their reputation is so solid that they have been heard on the soundtracks of The Lord of the Rings and a Harry Potter film. It's unfortunate that the adults with whom they are paired here keep this from being a CD that can be recommended without qualification. The sound is a little too present and ringingly resonant, and may require the listener to adjust the volume down in the louder passages.

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