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Hyperion Records

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St John the Evangelist (from the St Thomas altarpiece) by Pedro Burruguete (c1450-1504)
Convent of St Thomas, Avila / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDH55407
Recording details: February 1999
Westminster Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: August 1999
Total duration: 5 minutes 50 seconds

'For sheer beauty of sound this recording is unsurpassed' (Gramophone)

'Missa Ecce ego Johannes bristles with enough energy to power the National Grid and the breathtaking authority, drive and power few other groups can emulate brings them thrillingly close to religious ecstasy' (Choir & Organ)

'Joyous performances' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Even among the Westminster Cathedral Choir's superb records this disc stands out. Perfect chording and ensemble, natural and musical phrasing, spot-on intonation and a glorious tonal blend, make this issue one to treasure' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'Under James O'Donnell, Westminster Cathedral Choir has developed into what many regard as the nation's finest church choir. This release justifies that reputation. Palestrina's music emerges as more than the stuff of academic legend. There's a vibrancy in the opening Laudate pueri, while Peccantem me quotidie and Tribulationes civitatum both touch deep emotions, and the Mass Ecce ego Johannes radiates noble majesty. We are reminded that Palestrina was a highly individual composer, and every bit as Italian as, say, Monteverdi' (The Sunday Times)

'The listener can rejoice in the sumptuousness of the Westminster Cathedral sound with none of the anxiety over niggling imperfections that one suffers when hearing almost any other ensemble. The combination of accuracy with mastery of style is unrivalled' (Gramophone Early Music)

'Yet another superb disc from Westminster Cathedral … many consider not only the finest cathedral choir in Britain, but one of the best in the world. The sound is quite glorious' (Goldberg)

'This work could not be better sung than, as here, by the choir of Westminster Cathedral' (Contemporary Review)

Cantantibus organis
1575; 5vv SATTB; Motettorum liber tertius, Venice
author of text
First Respond at Matins on the Feast of St Cecilia, 22 November

Other recordings available for download
The Cardinall's Musick, Andrew Carwood (conductor)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Late sixteenth-century Rome was a vigorous and energetic place, stimulated in part by the way in which the Catholic Church had responded to the gauntlet thrown down by the religious reformers of Northern Europe. Two new priestly orders had arisen—the Jesuits and the Oratorians—both with fire in their bellies and a great zeal for evangelism. Lavish works of architecture, art, literature and music revealed a Church which was neither damaged by the Reformation nor in retreat, but striding forward with ever greater confidence. Both prelates and aristocrats were patrons of the arts and they were often in competition to employ the finest musicians and to put on ever larger events. One of the ways in which Roman musicians responded to these demands was to develop the art of polychoral music, with two, three or even four choirs performing together, either to produce a massive choral sound or to allow rhetorical ‘discussion’, with one choir answering another, sometimes taking the harmonies in another direction, or jumping in with new material, or being kept silent only to enter with greater force a little later.

This was a new direction for music, different to the style inherited and developed by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525/6–1594), one derived essentially from Flemish composers such as Josquin Des Prez. Imitation was at the centre of their work: a melody would be sung in one voice and then copied a few beats later by another part at a different but complementary pitch, followed by yet another voice and so forth. This style can be seen in a late form in the motet Cantantibus organis (1575) by Palestrina, where the opening intervals of a fourth or a fifth are imitated in each voice part and many themes emerge during the course of the piece, all of which are playfully repeated in a true musical democracy. The new polychoral style was often more concerned with homophony, when a single choir could declaim the text with all voice parts moving essentially at the same time and another choir could respond. Palestrina embraced this style wholeheartedly, producing in his later publications many pieces for two choirs and some for three.

from notes by Andrew Carwood © 2011

Other albums featuring this work
'Allegri: Miserere & the music of Rome' (CDA67860)
Allegri: Miserere & the music of Rome
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00ALAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00 CDA67860  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

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