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This look towards Easter is an enterprising idea, with six settings of that most emotive of all texts, the Stabat Mater, showing a mother’s anguish at the foot of the cross as she watches her son die. It’s the third collaboration between The Sixteen and the Genesis Foundation, whose aim is to promote and nurture young talent. The works of three young composers – Alissa Firsova, Tonu Korvits and Matthew Martin – are interspersed with settings from past centuries. It opens with the unadorned beauty of early plainchant, the tenors and sopranos performing the stanzas alternately.

Alissa Firsova’s flowing, caring setting, influenced by her Russian background, captures the scene with gentle dissonance in the shadow of Arvo Pärt. Estonian Tonu Korvits produces an interestingly harmonic work, which is passionate and pays homage to his roots. Well-versed in the Anglican tradition, Matthew Martin takes an inventive approach, juxtaposing 13th-century text with words by contemporary poet-priest Robert Willis to turn it into a Passiontide triptych, resulting in an anguished, original work. The 18th-century Claudio Casciolini follows the traditional practice of setting the even verses to plainsong and the odd ones in alternating rhythms. Domenico Scarlatti’s driven tour de force in ten parts is a complete workout for the voices, The Sixteen performing flawlessly throughout under the persuasive direction of Harry Christophers.

SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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