Since its founding in 1948, the SWR Stuttgart Vokalensemble, in addition to standard works of the choral repertoire, has tackled some of the most daunting contemporary literature, including music by Schoenberg, Messiaen, Stockhausen, Rihm, Kagel, and Kurtág. It's easy to hear in their performances how their mastery of such a breadth of musical styles has equipped the singers with both the technical skills and the expressive sensitivity to shine in the repertoire on this album of a cappella music, which is essentially lyrical, but also fearsomely difficult and complex. That's especially true in the two extravagantly imaginative works by James MacMillan: O bone Jesu and Màiri. Both demand absolute certainty in finding pitches in the midst of the composer's dense, unpredictable harmonies, and the ability to produce an utterly pure, unforced tone at the extremes of vocal ranges. The singers respond with performances of exceptional focus, clarity, and warmth. The Vaughan Williams Mass in G and his part song, Silence and Music, are less technically demanding in comparison, but their chaste austerity requires a precision of intonation, articulation, and pronunciation that the singers deliver with apparent ease, creating just the sense of serenity the music calls for. Conductor Marcus Creed's readings breathe with naturalness and appropriate fluidity. The sound of the SACD is wonderfully clean, with just enough resonance.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Mass for soloists & chorus in G minor|