The sublime Missa pro defunctis (1605) of Tomás Luis de Victoria has long been a central work in The Sixteen's repertoire; indeed, this ensemble's number was based on the 16 singers -- 12 men, 4 boys -- of the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, which Victoria probably used for his own performances of the Requiem. But director Harry Christophers delayed recording this masterpiece for many years, waiting for his interpretation to mature and for the group's singing to become as refined as possible. This 2005 recording is presumably as good as it can get, and, as with any release from The Sixteen, that's saying a lot: the singers' pristine tone, superb intonation, crisp diction, and luminous ensemble blend are fully evident, and the Requiem is as sonically rich and expressively shaded as this late Renaissance work was meant to sound. The somber motet Taedet animam meam, three Marian antiphons, and three motets on texts from the Song of Songs round out the program, and the selections share the mellifluous counterpoint and plangent modal harmonies that are characteristic of Victoria's greatest works. The DSD recording by Coro is marvelously clear and focused, and the acoustics of London's St. Silas the Martyr Church give this hybrid SACD ideal resonance and presence. Anyone looking for a perfect introduction to Victoria, to Renaissance sacred music in general, or to the artistry of The Sixteen would do well to check out this splendid album, one of the absolute finest by any standard.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Missa Pro Defunctis a 6|