British choir the Sixteen could easily rest on its laurels, well deserved for having popularized a wide range of Baroque and Renaissance music for Britain's crossover-oriented Classic FM audience. The group deserves plaudits, therefore, for undertaking a series on Polish early music, known hardly at all outside Poland and perhaps not even terribly well there. Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki (1665-1734) was a leading composer of the Polish High Baroque, not normally recognized as a high point in Eastern European tradition. He composed in both the stile moderno and stile antico traditions, and unusually it's the Missa Rorate coeli, composed in the latter (a cappella Renaissance) style, that really grabs one's attention. The mass consists of a linked Ordinary and Proper, distinguished by different vocal forces, and the individual movements are also delightfully transparent, marked by open textures and frequent changes in texture. The mass as a whole is quite tuneful. The larger instrumentally accompanied, Baroque-style motets are also distinctive, and the four-part Conductus funebris (tracks 15-18) is a serious work of great gravity that could profitably be programmed along with Bach in any number of contexts. The Sixteen, conducted here by Eamonn Dougan, are given a bit too many vocal swoops for the taste of some, but mileage may vary. Recommended, with extra points for adventurous spirit.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim