Album review: Huelgas Ensemble, The Eton Choirbook (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi)


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The Independent Culture

When Eton College was first established by the 18-year-old Henry VI in 1440, a significant part of its instruction concerned the singing of daily Masses, Hours and Salves by a vocal complement of 16, equally split between choirboys and deeper registers.

So assiduously was this carried out that by the early 16th century, the college had built up an unparalleled songbook of complex English polyphony. With interest in sacred singing on the rise, the Eton Choirbooks are proving a rich source of newly unearthed material on several recent albums including this marvellously precise collection by the Huelgas Ensemble, a trove of transcendent melisma recommended for fans of Tallis's “Spem in Alium”.

Download: Salve Regina à 7; Magnificat à 5; Salve Regina à 9; Stabat Mater à 6