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The Independent Culture
Victoria: Requiem. Gabrieli Consort/McCreesh (Archiv, CD). Tomas Luis de Victoria was one of those great Renaissance figures who lived for the spirit as well as the world. A composer without equal in Spanish 16th-century music, he was also a priest whose life was literally surrounded by saints (St Teresa of Jesus, St John of the Cross and St Philip Neri were all close contemporaries) and who worked exclusively ad majorem dei gloriam. The Requiem was effectively his swansong, written for the obsequies of the Empress Maria who died only a few years before the composer himself; and according to surviving testimony, they were "the most solemn and sumptuous [obsequies] there have ever been in Spain" - an atmospheric detail which Paul McCreesh's reading faithfully reproduces in sound on this outstanding disc. McCreesh belongs to the new tradition of scholar-conductors who specialise in the period reconstruction not just of music but of the surrounding context which would have governed its original performance. In other words, he conducts not just scores but events; and this recording gives you the event of Maria's last rites in terms so vivid you could almost reach out and touch the corpse. The atmosphere is solemn, dark and heavy, with the voices limited to adult males (falsettists on the top) as would have been the case in 17th-century Madrid. No boys. The acoustic is rich (Brinkburn Priory, Northumberland). And the polyphony of the Mass settings is filled out with chant to suggest a complete liturgical framework. In fairness, it's not the first time this sort of reconstruction has been attempted, and the Requiem is already well-represented on disc, including fine recordings from Westminster Cathedral Choir (with boys) on the Hyperion label and the Tallis Scholars on Gimell. But to my ear McCreesh captures the mystic transcendence of the piece still more effectively, with a judicious balance between musical precision and the justifiable desire to bask in sonic splendour. Probably the most impressive new choral release I've heard all year. Michael White

Squeeze: Ridiculous (A&M, CD/tape). Having survived being called the new Lennon & McCartney, Chris Difford and Glen Tilbrook are now being touted as the old Blur and Oasis. Which is odd, because if ever there was a band that sounded like no one else, it's Squeeze. This, their 14th album, is much the same as all the others, but better than most. The tunes are warm and sweet, the words are richly ordinary ("you changed the locks, threw out my socks"). "Electric Trains" is a transport of delight; "Heaven Knows" won't make you miserable now; "I Want You" is up there with Elvis Costello and, yes, the Beatles, in the contest for the best song called "I Want You". Tim de Lisle

Aztec Camera: Frestonia (Warner, CD/tape). Roddy Frame is another veteran purveyor of literate pop. And he's back on form too. Nowhere else (except on a Squeeze album) could you find "firemen's hoses" rhymed with "Holy Moses". Commercially, the album will probably get trampled in the Christmas rush: a better bet might have been a compilation, of the kind that has revived the fortunes of Kirsty MacColl and Alison Moyet. But there are four excellent songs here - "Sun", a swinging single; "Beautiful Girl", a beguiling chugger; and two sweeping ballads, "Debutante" and "Mother of Love" - and several more that have a boyish charm. If you like Edwyn Collins' "A Girl Like You", you'll enjoy this. TdeL