The Sixteen / Harry Christophers

The Queen of Heaven [1 CD]

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

The repertoire of veteran British choir the Sixteen has broadened as its career has proceeded, but with this album of Marian-themed pieces by Palestrina and James MacMillan, this technically flawless but not especially emotionally profound group is on very familiar ground. Let it be said that fans of the Sixteen are going to gobble this up. The limpid textures of the Palestrina pieces, perhaps especially sweet with this subject matter, the earnest devotion of the MacMillan settings, the perfectly sung intervals throughout that seem to exist in a kind of otherworldly realm: all of these are the Sixteen's trademarks, and all are delivered effectively here. On the other hand, there is something here that qualifies as a genuine experiment. The piece marked Allegri, Miserere-Its Evolution (track 4), is a sort of fantasia on the famed original work, which conductor Harry Christophers, in his always welcome personal note that opens the CD booklet, not without justification calls the single most famous piece of sacred music ever written. The work as it is known today consists of a series of accretions over several centuries to an unknown original. Performed here are a series of developing variations that essentially trace the history of those accretions and then extend them forward even a little more with embellishments by Christophers himself. The concept is unusual enough that it breaks the mood established by the rest of the album, but the Allegri work on its own is already strange, and the Sixteen, for whom pure sensuousness ia a major part of the appeal, pull off this next stage effectively. Drawn from the music presented at one of the Sixteen's periodic "Choral Pilgrimages," this is a must for fans of the group.

blue highlight denotes track pick