Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
Before outlining the content of this most enjoyable CD a word for praise - several words in fact - for the performers. Since its formation in 2006 La Maitrise de Toulouse under its founder and director Mark Opstad has established itself as one of the world's great children's choirs. Of course, all the founder members have grown up and left but the sound remains the same. With the addition of adult tenor and bass sections the choir is now able to tackle the full range of sacred vocal music. To quote from another review, "There's probably nothing this choir couldn't sing, and spectacularly well." Add in Les Sacqueboutiers, a well-established early music consort, also from Toulouse, and we are ready to hear what they can do. The repertoire chosen for this release is a perfect showcase for their combined talents and focuses on music for a Renaissance Spanish royal funeral. The centrepiece is the well-known 'Requiem' by Tomas Luis de Victoria (c. 1548-1611) which would have originally been performed by a children's choir ("ninos cantorcicos") and the "ministriles", wind players attached to the cathedral. While the music is serious it was not intended to be sombre and on this recording it comes over as suitably lively and all immaculately recorded by Gary Cole. I confess that all the other composers represented here, all near contemporaries of de Victoria, were all previously unknown to me. To be fair, two of the pieces are first recordings, namely "Versa est in luctum" ("My harp has turned into an instrument of grief") by Miguel Juan Marques (whose dates are unknown beyond being in the 17th century) and "Taedet animam meam" ("My soul is weary", a text also used in the 'Requiem') by Carlos Patino (1600-1675). Add Manuel Correa (1600-1653), Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599), Alonso Lobo (c. 1555-1617), and Mateo Romero (c. 1575-1647) plus another contribution from de Victoria with his instrumental setting of "O sacrum convivium" ("O sacred feast") and we have my spellchecker working overtime and, more importantly, an excellent survey of Renaissance Spanish cathedral music all sung and played to the very highest standards. Yes, the genre is obscure but the quality is outstanding and deserves to be widely heard.
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