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David Skinner and his team present here a selection of works from the music book – now in the Royal College of Music – thought to have been assembled in the 1530s and owned and used by Anne Boleyn, deviating only for the very last track (‘O Deathe rock me asleep’, often attributed to Anne in her last days and here hauntingly sung by the superb Clare Wilkinson). Many high-quality and often anonymous works from the early 16th-century French motet style feature alongside works by Mouton, Josquin, Compère, Févin, Brumel and de Sermisy.

The ensemble singing of Alamire is of an extremely high order, and the lower voices (six across the multiple tenor lines, two baritones and three basses) produce a sound which may in the most technical possible fashion be described as ‘stonking’; at many moments (notably in Josquin’s Nativity sequence Praeter rerum seriem) it is viscerally thrilling. The flip-side of this terrific yet slightly unremitting ‘wall of sound’ is that at moments I might have welcomed more frequent varying of texture throughout the double-disc programme, perhaps through more employment of the (to my mind, somewhat underused) instrumentalists. Kirsty Whatley’s Renaissance harp contributed a complementary tone of gentle intimacy, and I should have liked to have heard more of it. That is a minor – and subjective – caveat, though, to raise against a fascinating and finely-executed disc, which I warmly recommend.

Catherine Groom Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing