Saturday, January 28, 2012

Awards 2011 - Medieval & Renaissance

"Puer natus est: Tudor music for Advent and Christmas"
Stile Antico
Harmonia Mundi

If you haven't heard of Stile Antico by now, then you really haven't been paying attention to the Nereffid's Guide Awards, because this is their third appearance in a row, and their second time winning this category. They must be pretty good, huh? Here's John Quinn on MusicWeb: "The group produces a lovely, even sound and throughout this disc tuning, ensemble and blend seemed impeccable to me. They also sing with great clarity – every line is crystal clear – and the balance between the voices and parts is superb – and this is all the more remarkable when you consider that they don’t have a conductor to regulate the performances as they proceed." Praise, too, for the music itself: in IRR, Christopher Price comments on Tallis's "sublime masterpiece" Videte miraculum and his "astonishingly complex and beautiful" Missa "Puer natus est", not to mention Byrd's "masterpieces of subtle polyphonic writing", White's "glorious" Magnificat and Sheppard's "typically exuberant, wide-ranging, harmonically daring and structurally complex Verbum caro".

Striggio: Mass in 40 Parts, etc
I Fagiolini/Robert Hollingworth

Byrd: Complete consort music

"Dinastia Borgia"
La Capella Reial de Catalunya; Hesperion XXI/Jordi Savall
Alia Vox

Victoria: Requiem 1605; Lobo: Lamentationes
Tenebrae/Nigel Short

I suppose I should note my disappointment, though not my surprise, that this category is far more Renaissance than Medieval. That's just the nature of things - medieval music is very much a niche. Perhaps another "Feather on the Breath of God" is just around the corner. At least we have Jordi Savall to span the centuries. What else to note? Well, it's somewhat unusual to see Decca in the early music field. In fact this is the only one of 32 entries on this category's long list to be from a major label. Yes, it received a lot of hype, but clearly it was also very good. There were a handful of Victoria discs pottering about the list, as you might hope seeing as he was an "anniversary composer", but Tenebrae's album was definitely the one that stood out.

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