Palestrina, Pro Cantione Antiqua - The Song Of Songs

Wednesday 1st February 1995
Palestrina, Pro Cantione Antiqua - The Song Of Songs

STYLE: Classical
RATING 5 5 5 5 5
LABEL: Hyperion 66733

Reviewed by John Irvine

From his dedication of these motets to Pope Gregory XIII, it was clear that Palestrina was seeking to distance himself not only from his contemporaries but also from his younger days when he had set to music "poems with no other subject than love of a kind quite alien to the Christian faith." Palestrina "blushed and grieved" that he had been one of those whose musical art had been wasted on mere love songs. The cultural life in Rome in the late 16th century had altered and was now ready to receive 'madrigali spiritual!' for popular gatherings. The combination of spiritual exercises with good music went down well. It is in this context that Palestrina's musical setting of Solomon's "Song Of Songs" should be placed. The pieces were intended for devotional use, even if to our modern age they seem little more than settings of the bits of the Bible which don't get preached on too often! Pro Cantione Antiqua's members are drawn from among Britain's finest singers - including James Bowman (countertenor), Ian Partridge (tenor) and Michael George (bass). The performance is precise and polished, but as if to prove that talent isn't everything, passion and conviction are noticeably absent, leading to an overwhelming sensation that this recording was mechanical and 'by the numbers'. There is no excitement to be gained from this recording. Most disappointing, given the quality of the music, the pedigree of the performers and the reputation of the label.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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