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The untamed interpretational attitudes of Graindelavoix may startle, but I admire their daring re-imaginings of performance practice for late medieval English polyphony in The Liberation of the Gothic. If you eschew portamento, improvised ornamentation, dramatic tempo shifts, and characterful voices delivering individualised lines in this repertoire, look away now. Alongside two Marian motets by Browne from The Eton Choirbook shines a rarity – Missa Ave Maria by Thomas Ashwell. Love it or loathe it, Graindelevoix is attention-grabbing, thrilling and spicily sonorous. If they rasp and tickle the ear like the vocal equivalent of three-day stubble, the Tallis Scholars enter impeccably groomed with Josquin Masses – Gaudeamus & L’ami Baudichon. Intense purity both of sound and purpose and a particularly fine bass quality for Missa Gaudeamus reveals (as one might a precious relic) the architecture of intellectual polyphony drawn in lines of sustained loveliness. Too polite? Might we wish for the guilty pleasure of a more unbuttoned approach?

REBECCA TAVENER Read the full review on Agora Classica


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