Stile Antico

From the Imperial Court: Music for the House of Hapsburg

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The 16 voices of the British choir Stile Antico have a reputation for perfect blend and for programs that go beyond the favorites generally essayed by the similarly sized British choir the Sixteen. That's what's in this collection of motets (and the chanson Mille regretz) united by their connection to the Hapsburg court. It may be surprising to see Thomas Tallis under that rubric, but as the informative booklet points out, he makes the cut due to the marriage of Philip II of Spain to Mary Tudor. As that suggests, and as might be expected from a collection of pieces spanning a century, the Hapsburg factor does little to unite these pieces, even if the Emperor Maximilian does get name-checked at one point. Instead, this is simply a collection of intriguing Renaissance works that are generally beyond the ones normally heard. In the Tallis and several other pieces, the singers do an especially nice job with the striking dissonances that sometimes appear in music of the earlier Renaissance; they neither gloss over the dissonances nor overemphasize them. Big pieces like Heinrich Isaac's Virgo prudentissima contrast nicely with the the soberer idiom of the likes of Morales. In short, a very well recorded Renaissance a cappella program, marred by a needlessly confusing listing on the outer packaging that does not reflect the actual ordering of the music.

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