John Eliot Gardiner

Santiago a cappella

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This recording was released in 2004 in Spain and reissued on choral conductor John Eliot Gardiner's Soli Deo Gloria label in 2010. Gardiner is enamored of the idea of pilgrimages and their performance possiblities; one of his most celebrated projects has been his traveling Bach cantata concert and recording endeavor, in which he performed all of Bach's cantatas at relevant times of the year. The route of the pilgramage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain has been popular from medieval times to our own and offers several centuries' worth of associated a cappella choral music. Gardiner and his Monteverdi Choir traveled around Spain in 2004, its 40th anniversary year, but the recording was made in London's St. Alban the Martyr church, a sympathetic venue indeed for this choir. Except for the medieval three-voice Marian motet that opens the program and the Crux fidelis (track 4) or John IV of Portugal, a work with the vast, sweeping quality of medieval English polyphony, the music comes from the Spanish Golden Age polyphonic repertoire of Victoria, Guerrero, and Lobo. Gardiner's take on this music is even more expressive than his Bach style, with swelling climaxes and melodic lines shaped in dynamic waves. It's a contrast from the somber, meditative style in which other groups perform this music. The choir responds beautifully to Gardiner's wishes and adds to his reputation as one of the great pure technicians of choral conducting, whatever the spiritual connotations he attaches to his work. Well worth the investment for anyone in search of a basic collection of Spanish Renaissance motets, even if it's not the only word on the subject.

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