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The first chord of the Vienna Vocal Ensemble’s tribute to Byrd , delivered from below with mannered portamento, suggests a teasingly daring Gesualdo-ish approach, until it becomes apparent that this is an aberration in what is intended to be a crisp and forthright interpretation. Their English and Latin are both idiosyncratic – although the former is no quirkier than some ‘authentic’ pronunciation schemes – a pity, because their distinctive, incisive, characterful vocal colours are arrestingly attractive. Their second disc, Passion, finds them on firmer ground with repertoire that ought to form their USP: a revelatory, absorbing anthology of very rare middle-European sacred music by Joachim von Burck, Caspar Othmayr and Hieronymous Praetorius. There’s a very fine consort struggling to emerge fully from this chrysalis – a greater commitment to unanimous technical development would allow their wings to expand. The sound on both discs is excellent, immediate and spacious, and Passion finds them assured and expressive in their native tongue.

REBECCA TAVENER Read the full review on Agora Classica

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