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Allegri: Miserere

Tenebrae, Nigel Short (conductor)
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Label: Signum Classics
Recording details: May 2004
St Michael's Church, Highgate, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by Limo Hearn
Release date: October 2006
Total duration: 71 minutes 0 seconds

Cover artwork: Photo by Olivier Haubensak.

Few can argue with Tenebrae's international stature as one of the most competent, versatile, exciting and passionate vocal ensembles in the world today. Its perfectly blended sound coupled with near-flawless technique is showcased here, featuring a selection of their favourite concert repertoire to create a performance worthy of anyone's collection.

Allegri's haunting Miserere is the central point in a journey through music of longing and entreaty, hope and faith. These works spanning the centuries are chosen from the heart of Tenebrae's concert repertoire.

The present album contains works by Taverner, Holst, Rachmaninov, Lotti, Ireland, Harris, Britten and Kodály.


'I really think we're in a choral golden age at the moment. I was inspired by Tenebrae when I heard them in a concert at St. Jude's in Hampstead and just had to get their new 'Allegri Miserere' album. It's beautifully sung, a wonderful recording that has introduced me to some pieces that I didn't know' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The strength of Tenebrae, their brand, if you like, is the breadth of range from almost kitschy murmuring to the full-throated beltissimo. The former brings welcome intimacy to the Britten Hymn to St Cecilia, while the latter powerfully propels Holst's Psalm 148 to its conclusion, albeit in youthful, fresh-sounding style. The album ends with that locus classicus of English choral singing, Faire is the Heaven, in which one would be forgiven for thinking Spenser's final words,'such endlesse perfectnesse' refer to the choir themselves rather than the state of Heaven. Some successful spatial effects in the engineering, and overall nicely captured' (BBC Music Magazine)

'This album is a must for all connoisseurs of the finest unaccompanied choral singing. From the very first bars of John Tavener's Song for Athene, the opening work in a pleasingly eclectic programme, Tenebrae reveals itself as one of those exceptional choirs whose individual singers have been moulded into a single superbly sensitive and responsive musical instrument. The mood of each piece is captured to perfection, from Tavener's almost hypnotic transcendence to the passionate grief of Antonio Lotti's eight-part Crucifixus, whose agonised chromatic harmonies pack a terrific punch; or from the intensely moving and dignified simplicity of Alexander Sheremetev's Now ye Heavenly Powers (from the Russian Orthodox liturgy) to the exuberantly pealing halleluiahs of Holst's joyously inventive setting of Psalm 148. The soprano soloists in Allegri's Miserere have a combined purity and richness of sound, giving the celebrated ornaments a jewel-like brilliance. Britten's Hymn to St Cecilia enables the choir to display its virtuoso control of rapid dynamic and textural changes. This is an outstanding performance, which reflects every expressive nuance in both poem and music' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Despite the title, there's a distinctly eastern-European tinge to this selection of mostly unaccompanied choral pieces. John Tavener's affinity with eastern Orthadox chant is evident in his Song for Athene; Rachmaninov's Hymn to the Cherubim is followed by Count Alexander Sheremetiev's Now ye heavenly powers for men's voices, sung in Russian. The eastern Roman Catholic tradition is represented by Kodály's arrangement of a folksong and a sentimental Ave Maria from Pawel Lukaszewski. If the women's voices sound too grown-up for John Ireland's Ex ore innocentium, the fleetness of the second poem in Britten's Hymn to St Cecillia is a delight, and WH Harris's Faire is the heaven sublime' (Classic FM Magazine)
The fusion of a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet with Eastern Orthodox chant in the opening moments of John Tavener’s Song for Athene sets the tone for a divergent and diverting aggregate of creeds, songs, and prayers performed by Tenebrae under the direction of Nigel Short. Songs of innocence and experience, war, remembrance and hope mingle with Orthodox hymns, Roman Catholic motets and Anglican anthems. From the secretive Vatican of the Seventeenth Century to present-day Poland, by way of the American Civil War, there are plenty of crosscurrents, concurrences and reflections with which to conjure in this programme.

M Ross © 2006

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