Concert Review: Miserere – Renaissance Masters, Saturday 4 March 2017

Chamber choir weaves ‘a tapestry of harmonies’

Music of the Renaissance and early Baroque has a style probably best heard in the music of The Sixteen, yet few amateur groups handle it better than the St Albans Chamber Choir.

Although they have a wide repertoire, which has included fine performances of works by modern composers such as Eric Whitacre and Will Todd, they always delight when they return to the early forms of music.

Saturday’s concert at St Saviour’s Church in St Albans was just such an event with a programme packed with some of the finest music from the period.

Starting with works by Orlande de Lassus and ending with Giovanni Pierluigi da Palastrina’s tremendous Stabat Mater, the whole evening was a heady delight of first class unaccompanied music.

The choir, under musical director John Gibbons, wove a tapestry of harmonies and fine sound patterns originally designed to fill ancient churches and court chapels of Europe’s nobility.

Without a doubt the best-known piece of the evening was Gregorio Allegri’s oft recorded Miserere, famed for the top C’s in the soprano part. A work which rarely fails to thrill, the chamber choir’s performance was exactly as expected.

Much less well known but equally exciting was Antonio Caldara’s amazing 16-part Crucifixus. A brief five-minute work, it has an intense beauty which the choir handled superbly.

No concert of music from this era by the St Albans Chamber Choir would be complete with- out music by the Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria and on this occasion, it was his Missa Salve Regina for double choir.

Adding another layer of interest to the evening was outstanding British lutenist Lynda Sayce, who performed two fine solos both by little known composers. The first was Vita in ligno moritur by Swiss composer Ludwig Senfl and the second, English composer Cuthbert Hely’s Fantasia in F Minor.


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