The Sixteen / Harry Christophers

Flight of Angels: Francisco Guerrero, Alonso Lobo

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Around 1950, Spanish composers Francisco Guerrero and Alonso Lobo might have formed the backbone of the Renaissance music section of a concert by most any American college glee club. In 2015 they're less often heard; people prefer the dark hues of Tomás Luís de Victoria, so evocative of the paintings of El Greco. But the music of both composers is worth hearing anew, and the British choir the Sixteen under longtime director Harry Christophers, makes an excellent vehicle. Neither Guerrero nor Lobo, his student, was much affected by the artistic strictures of the Catholic Counter Reformation, for both already cultivated styles that paid plenty of attention to the words. Lobo certainly felt the influence of Palestrina, evident in the vertically sizable but compact Ave Maria a8 (track 10) heard here. Many of the pieces are for more than four voices, and the Sixteen bulks up to 18 singers to cover them all. These are set effectively against simpler, limpid pieces like Lobo's funeral motet Versa est in luctum (track 11), probably the best-known of the lot. The title Flight of Angels is only minimally relevant to the variety of mass sections and motets; the point here is to get to know a pair of distinctive composers who haven't been performed so often lately and who match the precise but intimate and reverent style of the choir very well. Recommended for Sixteen fans and lovers of unaccompanied Renaissance choral music in general.

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