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A December Feast In Mulieribus In Mulieribus is an all-female ensemble based in Portland, Oregon, whose performances and recordings since their founding in 2004 inventively mix early vocal works with 20th- and 21st-century works and new commissions. A December Feast is their first recording, made in 2010, and celebrates the many liturgical feast days that take place in that month – 25 December, naturally, is the subject of most of the tracks on the disc, but the feasts of the Immaculate Conception, Holy Innocents, St Stephen and St Nicholas are also commemorated.

The group’s sound is clear, well-balanced (although not at the cost of suppressing the individual timbres of the seven singers) and a delight to listen to, although the reverberant acoustic of Portland’s St Stephen’s Catholic Church occasionally blurs the clarity around the edges. Most impressive are the earlier English works – that said, I’d plump for Peter Maxwell Davies’ ‘The Fader of heven’ as my favourite track on the disc – and I’m sorry to say that infelicities of ensemble and intonation begin to creep in towards the end of the longer tracks, particularly the 13-minute ‘Sederunt principes’ by Pérotin.

Comparisons with the work of the recently disbanded Anonymous 4 are perhaps inevitable, given the nature of the two groups and the preponderance of medieval repertoire, but are by no means always in the more renowned ensemble’s favour: In Mulieribus have here produced a gem of a Christmas album, and one well worth seeking out.

Adrian Horsewood Read the full review on Agora Classica


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