Classical Music on CD: Carver Mass 'Dum sacrum mysterium'; Magnificat; O bone Jesu The Sixteen / Harry Christophers Collins Classics 14782

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The Independent Culture
For many Scottish musicians, the rediscovery of the 16th-century composer Robert Carver was at least as significant as the return of the Stone of Scone. But let's not make too much of the national issue. Carver is important for anyone who cares about church music in the so-called Age of Faith.

The fertile, rich polyphony of the Missa Dum Sacrum mysterium and the 19-part O bone Jesu has a flavour of its own. Unlike Byrd or Tallis, Carver doesn't go for sustained, ecstatic flight; the ear focuses more on telling details or subtle changes in sonority. That can give the music a stop-start effect in performance. Not here, though: these new versions have a momentum and expressive conviction that isn't matched by any other recordings I've heard. Each piece or movement is a live, evolving experience, with a natural climax. Just how "correct" the approach is I am in no position to say, but the conviction carried me along, and The Sixteen's clarity and technical security add to the sheer sensuous pleasure - as does the warm, spacious recorded sound.

With the two Carver works come two extras: the plainchant on which the Mass is based, and an anonymous Magnificat - not as distinctive as genuine Carver, perhaps, but further proof that musical life at the Chapel Royal of James IV was healthy and distinctive.