Harry Christophers / The Sixteen

Sounds Sublime

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British choir the Sixteen is billed as being among "the Voices of Classic FM," the impressively successful British independent classical radio network. This mixed-gender adult group of (natch) 16 voices performs music ranging from the early English Renaissance to Mozart and, on occasion, the Romantics. An objection to their style might be that they tend to sound similar in all these repertories. This double-CD "essential collection" tends to reinforce that idea, but it also showcases the group's considerable strengths. To put it briefly, the Sixteen makes early music go down easy and does so without turning it completely into something different. The vocal surfaces are gorgeous, and each album contains a note by director Harry Christophers that touches on connections between the music's origins and its resonances in our own time. They sweat the details and that has never been more apparent than in this greatest-hits release. Most of the time such albums are left to label underlings and produced without imagination, but this one is beautifully packaged and has a full new set of notes concisely explaining the album's fresh concept. That concept is well thought-out; the album is not just a random selection of tracks somehow judged to be the best of the Sixteen, whose music-making is nothing if not consistent. Instead, each piece chosen is associated with a specific historical event, many of them significant junctures in British history. You couldn't ask for a better place to start in approaching unfamiliar music than to get a basic grip on its context in this way and then have it very attractively performed. The remastering is very strong; there's little sense of shifting sonic perspective even though the originals are drawn from a wide variety of this prolific group's releases. All this makes the album a fine introduction to one of modern Britain's most successful vocal groups.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Magnificat, for 5 voices, 5-part chorus, orchestra & continuo in D major, BWV 243 (BC E14)
1 02:55
2 04:03
3 02:54
4 03:23
5 09:35
6 02:43
7 02:01
8 05:43
Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem), for soprano, baritone, chorus & orchestra, Op. 45
9 06:32
10 03:14
11 03:18
Te Deum
12 05:18
The Lark, incidental music for countertenor, chorus & percussion
13 01:54
Le cantique des cantiques, for unaccompanied voices
14 03:49
Requiem, for 2 solo voices, chorus, organ & orchestra, Op. 48
15 03:23
Sept Répons des Ténèbres
16 03:27
17 01:59
18 00:57
19 02:41
Mass in B minor, for soloists, chorus & orchestra, BWV 232 (BC E1)
20 04:30
21 03:50

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Solomon, oratorio, HWV 67
1 03:03
Vesperae solennes de confessore for soloists, chorus & orchestra, K. 339
2 03:59
3 12:11
4 03:59
5 02:08
6 03:36
7 03:22
Mass, for double chorus
8 05:41
9 03:35
10 04:03
11 08:25
12 03:17
Messiah, oratorio, HWV 56
13 03:52
Cantata No. 147, "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben," BWV 147 (BC A174)
14 02:42
Gloria, for 3 solo voices, chorus, trumpet, oboe, violin (ad lib), 2 violas, 2 cellos, strings & continuo in D major, RV 589
15 02:26
Cantata No. 50, "Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft" (incomplete), BWV 50 (BC A194)
16 03:43
Samson, oratorio, HWV 57
17 06:29
blue highlight denotes track pick