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This volume is the second in The Sixteen’s series of Polish music, but – unlike the first, which featured the Polish composer Bartlomiej Pękiel – this disc contains pieces by three Italian composers connected with Marian worship. The best known of them is Giovanni Francesco Anerio (c 1567–1630) who principally took Palestrina as his model, adapted his celebrated ‘Marcellus’ mass and based his own double-choir Missa Pulchra es, included here, on Palestrina’s five-voice setting of a text from the Song of Songs. The dissemination of the Italian baroque is a subject of endless fascination in which trade routes, political and religious affinities, and the print trade play an important part.

Anerio’s music, along with that of the two other Italian maestri included here, Asprilio Pacelli (1570–1623) and Vincenzo Bertolusi (c 1550–1608) is in the so-called ‘stile antico’ tradition which became identified with Palestrina. Inasmuch as two of these composers, at least, were proteges of Palestrina, we may perhaps assume a historicism in the preservation and veneration of their master’s style.

I know of few other vocal ensembles than The Sixteen which maintain such a consistently high standard of execution. This équipe seldom disappoints and it certainly sustains here a glorious textural lucidity and contrapuntal integrity; and then, of course there is the music itself which is on occasion experimental at others conventional, but almost invariably expressive. Recorded sound is luminous and appropriate.

Nicholas Anderson Read the full review on Agora Classica


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