THE PHOENIX RISING: Tudor sacred music takes off with STILE ANTICO reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Stile Antico: The Phoenix Rising (Harmonia Mundi)

In a CD review I like to write about two things: what the music is and what it does for me. Let me begin by mixing both headings.

Stile Antico is NOT music I usually listen to because churchy music doesn’t usually interest me. However, when out of courtesy, I put it on my player to check out what the publisher had sent my way, I was seduced and captured. Many listenings later blended into different parts of my day, I continue to rely on this album for the luxury of letting my mind go free.

The Phoenix Rising is music by English composers of the Tudor period. They are the familiar masters of Tudor polyphony: Taverner and Tallis, born around 1500; Byrd, Morley, Gibbon and White, born around 1550. They represent three generations of craftsmanship who reflect the shifting dynamics of the English church and its styles of worship.

Sections of William Byrd’s Mass for five voices provides the backbone of the program from which various motets, like limbs, extend, and in this way the work by a compilation of composers is able to offer the comfort of stylistic unity.

Along with unity comes a sense of freedom. Stile Antico is a vocal ensemble of a dozen or more persons that is conductorless. It functions as a chamber ensemble in which each member contributes something personal to the musical result. Their spacious but precise approach is marked by spontaneous and subtle shifts of tempo and rhythm that have brought them to the front rank of Rennaisance choirs.

It is said that the prospect of hanging concentrates the mind wonderfully. The prospect of listening to this harmonious blend of voices expanding passion into peace, focus into freedom, will unwind your mind to a wonderful space of being beyond all styles of worship.

The album is richly produced and beautifully recorded with the support of the Carnegie UK Trust.



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