Sir Michael Tippett’s output of liturgical music is small, and indeed most of it appears on this disc. The anthem Plebs angelica occupies a unique place in the English choral repertoire. It was composed for the choir of Canterbury Cathedral in 1943. Tippett chose to set this striking poetic text in the original Latin (an unusual, even bold choice at the time for a work written for an Anglican cathedral choir), and the musical language makes obvious reference to Tudor choral music in its imitative, polyphonic style and the choice of unaccompanied double-choir scoring. But it is no pastiche: Tippett is revisiting and reimagining his Tudor inspiration, and this music sounds at once fresh and unmistakably modern, while also having a strong flavour of older music. The composer’s sense of drama and responsiveness to the text is everywhere evident, not least at ‘Vos, o Michael’ and the following three phrases where each Archangel is given a distinct musical ‘personality’. The closing word ‘Paradisicolas’ is serenely set, bringing this superb miniature to a richly luminous conclusion.
from notes by James O'Donnell © 2007