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ORA’s second journey through the renaissance takes as its inspiration the writings of the 14th-century Franciscan friar Girolamo Savonarola. Yet again this group shows its consid- erable skill not only in expressive interpretation but in clarity of lines, subtlety of expression, and an ability to main- tain an introspective atmosphere throughout. Of particular interest are two pairs of contrasted settings. I was surprised to learn that the high C in Allegri’s Miserere was not written by the composer and never performed in the Sistine Chapel but comes from a scribe’s transcription error. Through the research of Ben Byram-Wigfield, this performance is based on the original manuscripts at the Vatican where you hear the original Miserere at the first iteration, then the Sistine Chapel’s ornaments added to it, and finally the 20th-century error. James MacMillan’s ecstatic and contemplative setting of the same psalm shows his ingenuity at word coloration as he creates his own meditation on the text. Commissioned by ORA, Eriks Ešenvalds’s setting of Savonarola’s Infelix ego has its own radiant individuality, a very intriguing contrast to Byrd’s sublime setting: from the sustained opening leading to the impassioned homophonic section, it intensifies the text. This programme includes works by Verdelot, Richafort, Le Jeune and Clemens non Papa.

SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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