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Here are two versions, a half century apart, of Berkeley’s great Stabat Mater, a still underrated masterwork of modern British sacred music. The BBC version from 1965 has the slightly perfumed quality that was once thought appropriate to Berkeley’s Catholic vision, but which largely disappears on the Marian Consort’s vigorous new recording. The great joy of the Lyrita archive release is the powerful cantata Batter My Heart, Three Person’d God, based on the Donne poem and scored for soprano, chorus, oboe, horn, cellos, double bass and organ – an instrumentation that perfectly captures Berkeley’s rich but edgy tonality. The set is completed by the premiere recording of Magnificat for large choir, orchestra and organ. The Delphian disc – beautifully recorded as always – concentrates on somewhat less portentuous material: the lovely a cappella Mass For Five Voices and Judica me, with son Michael Berkeley’s Touch Light as a serenely fitting coda. The Marian Consort singers don’t hold back, but they don’t overegg their performances, delivering clear, well-pitched readings of the texts. Marvellous music, fittingly expounded.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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