The King's Singers - How Fair Thou Art: Biblical Passions by Palestrina

Published Saturday 27th February 2016
The King's Singers - How Fair Thou Art: Biblical Passions by Palestrina
The King's Singers - How Fair Thou Art: Biblical Passions by Palestrina

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Signum SIGCD450

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594) was a prolific and influential composer within the Roman Catholic church. On this CD we hear his beautiful polyphonic choral settings of the 'Caticum Canticorum' or 'Song Of Songs' if you prefer. This is a collection of love poems from the Hebrew Bible, traditionally believed to be by or about King Solomon. The poems are an expression of the joy of human love although some interpreters believe that they are allegorical meditations of the love between God and his people. Framing the Old Testament poems are four of Palestrina's Marian motets in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a theme that the composer returned to throughout his life. The performers on this disc are the prolific and popular King's Singers who are currently David Hurley (countertenor), Timothy Wayne-Wright (countertenor), debutant Julian Gregory (tenor), Christopher Bruerton (baritone), Christopher Gabbitas (baritone) and Jonathan Howard (bass). As is usual they sing a cappella throughout with their customary clarity of diction and beautifully balanced tone. Your reviewer sings in a much less exalted choir and he often turns with gratitude to The King's Singers to hear how it should be done, particularly as the separate vocal lines are always so clear and if ever we try to add any of the 16 pieces on this disc to our repertoire I will be following the baritone line with great interest. However this release should be considered as much more than a useful reference tool. Listeners who enjoy early and renaissance music will find much to enjoy in Palestrina's work and the many admirers of The King's Singers will need little encouragement to buy this latest release. The vocal pyrotechnics and sense of playfulness that can sometimes be heard on their lighter recordings are not so obvious here but the usual craftsmanship most certainly is.

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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