» » » A Wondrous Mystery: Renaissance Choral Music for Christmas - Stile Antico (2015) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/88.2kHz
A Wondrous Mystery: Renaissance Choral Music for Christmas - Stile Antico (2015) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/88.2kHz
A Wondrous Mystery: Renaissance Choral Music for Christmas - Stile Antico (2015) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/88.2kHz

Сomposer: Various
Artist: Stile Antico
Title: A Wondrous Mystery: Renaissance Choral Music for Christmas
Genre: Classical, Choral
Label: © Harmonia Mundi
Release Date: 2015
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 88,2kHz/24bit
Source: Qobuz
Duration: 01:12:51
Recorded: February, 2015 at All Hallows’ Church, Gospel Oak, London.

With its centuries-old traditions of singing angels, piping shepherds, and the natural necessity for the Christ-child to be sung a lullaby (all, of course, embellishments to the comparatively stark and gritty biblical narratives in which even the angels speak rather than sing!), the celebration of the nativity of Christ has over the centuries come to provide a fertile source of inspiration for composers and musicians. The Christmas music in this present programme is gathered from some of the most highly regarded European composers of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, working in both the Roman Catholic and Lutheran church traditions. The latter yielded predominantly German-texted carols, often with a popular flavour and in simpler settings, while the former produced Latin polyphony. Running as a thread through the programme is Clemens’s Christmas mass based on the motet Pastores quidnam vidistis, while Praetorius’s Magnificat draws strongly on both traditions.
Though there are significant gaps in our knowledge about his life, Jacobus Clemens (whose designation ‘non Papa’ seems to have been a joke which stuck rather than a necessary disambiguator) was one of the most prolific composers of the early to mid-16th century, especially considering his comparatively short life. Though we know little about the circumstances surrounding the composition of the mass setting included here, it is without doubt a work of distinction. Clemens’s practice was almost invariably to base his masses on an existing motet or chanson using parody technique; this work is no exception, taking the composer’s own Christmas five-part motet of the same name as its model. In spite of a fair degree of motivic development, there is the sense of a tightly-knit relationship between the mass and its source, strengthened by the distinctive modal writing and the clarity of Clemens’s five-part counterpoint, augmented by one voice only in the Agnus, and decreased to three parts for the Benedictus – both common features of masses from this period. Certain distinctive musical features in the motet receive prominent treatment during the mass – perhaps most notably the descending bass figure towards the end and its accompanying harmonic sequence. This receives particularly striking treatment in the Osanna sections where, presented at double speed in the approach to the final cadence, the effect seems to evoke the sound of pealing bells.

Stile Antico's 2015 release on Harmonia Mundi, A Wondrous Mystery, is a sublime collection of Renaissance choral music for Christmas, presented in a pleasant mix of familiar German carols and a mass, with tracks interspersed for the sake of variety. This makes sense in consideration of the group's broad audience, which may know such popular hymns as Michael Praetorius' Ein Kind geborn in Bethlehem and Es ist ein Ros entsprungen, or Johannes Eccard's Übers Gebirg Maria geht and Vom Himmel hoch, yet be somewhat at a loss with the motet and Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis by Jacobus Clemens non Papa, a composer beloved by early music specialists but not exactly a household name for lay listeners. However, the a cappella performances are consistently beautiful and soothing throughout, and the quietly joyous mood of the music fits the album's title perfectly. The 12-voice choir's blend is well-balanced and transparent, and the ambience of All Hallow's Church, Gospel Oak, London gives an ideal resonance for the group's small size and close miking. --AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson

Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)
1. Ein Kind geborn in Bethlehem 03:26
Jacob Clemens non Papa (1510-1555)
2. Motet: Pastores quidnam vidistis 05:01
Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)
3. Es ist ein Ros entsprungen 02:57
Jacob Clemens non Papa (1510-1555)
4. Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis: Kyrie 05:51
Jacob Handl (1550-1591)
5. Canite tuba 02:10
Jacob Clemens non Papa (1510-1555)
6. Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis: Gloria 08:11
Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-1629)
7. Magnificat quinti toni 11:25
Jacob Clemens non Papa (1510-1555)
8. Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis: Credo 10:09
Jacob Handl (1550-1591)
9. Mirabile mysterium 04:06
Johannes Eccard (1553-1611)
10. Über's Gebirg Maria geht 02:56
Jacob Clemens non Papa (1510-1555)
11. Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis: Sanctus & Benedictus 07:33
Johannes Eccard (1553-1611)
12. Vom Himmel hoch 02:01
Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)
13. Hodie Christus natus est 03:14
Jacob Clemens non Papa (1510-1555)
14. Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis: Agnus Dei 03:51

Sopranos: Helen Ashby, Kate Ashby, Rebecca Hickey
Altos: Emma Ashby, Eleanor Harries, Katie Schofield
Tenors: Jim Clements, Andrew Griffiths, Benedict Hymas
Basses: Will Dawes, Thomas Flint, Matthew O’Donovan

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