Prom 64: The Sixteen/Christophers
Prom 70: BBC Singers/Cleopbury/Nash Ensemble/Brabbins, Royal Albert Hall, London
Thursday 08 September 2005
But then, although they have recorded Stravinsky, Poulenc and Britten, The Sixteen surely remain rooted in Renaissance polyphony, not least the wondrous Eton Choirbook from which they took their initial line-up. Of their two Eton items, Robert Wylkynson's "Credo in Deum/Jesus autem transiens" comprised a blurred canon in 13 parts, but "Salve regina" by William Cornysh proved a finely varied sequence of ornate contrapuntal inventions, vigorously delivered.
The rest was Tallis in recognition of the 500th anniversary of his birth. First Tallis at his plainest, in the severe hymns he contributed to Archbishop Parker's Psalter (1567). Then Tallis at his most elaborate in the Marian motet "Gaude gloriosa Dei mater"; and, finally at his grandest in the "Spem in Alium". All was focused, spacious and radiant; a shortish programme but an aural feast.
Though expected to encompass the entire history of choral music, the BBC Singers, by contrast, remain an essentially 20th-century outfit. Here they offered, by way of a centenary tribute to Sir Michael Tippett, virile accounts of his cod-Elizabethan Coronation madrigal "Dance, Clarion Air" (1953) and his folkloristic Four Songs from the British Isles (1956), plus a rediscovered arrangement of "Over the Sea to Sky".
These alternated with a pair of miniature harp concertos featuring the Nash Ensemble's harpist Lucy Wakefield: Splintered Instruments, a volatile divertimento by David Horne, and the livelierMosaic by Elliott Carter. Finally, they were joined by Mark Padmore and David Wilson-Johnson for Tippett's extended Suite for The Tempest, a curious compilation by Meirion Bowen of his music for a 1962 Old Vic staging with items from other Tippett scores that had little to do with Shakespeare. It made a somewhat downbeat ending.
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