The Music Nigel Short's vocal ensemble Tenebrae continues its candlelit journey, after discs of Victoria's Requiem and Allegri's Miserere, with a programme of 15 brief English choral works. The disc's theme is death but is far from depressing (the disc, I mean, not death).
The Performance Tenebrae's intense, closely-mic'd sound is superbly balanced and textured; a soothing, uplifting antidote to our hectic lives. Among the highlights are Richard Rodney Bennett's A Good-Night (written in memory of Linda McCartney), Herbert Howells's Take him, earth, for cherishing (a tribute to the assassinated President John F Kennedy) and the ever-touching My soul, there is a country, the first of the six noble motets by Parry that give the album its title.
Precision, spot-on intonation and sensitive phrasing inform Tenebrae's affectionate performances of these settings of great English poets, the texts of which are provided in the classily produced booklet.
Each member of the choir seems to have been chosen (apart from having a lovely voice!) for possessing a vocal timbre that blends with the others. The effect in numbers like Sullivan's The Long Day Closes is like listening to a small string ensemble.
There are none of the prissy cathedral vowels and consonants in Tenebrae's shaping of words that can so often keep a listener at arm's length. Their clear diction and flexible phrasing lend the texts an almost conversational quality.
The intimate, chamber-like sound (no hint of the swimmy, reverberant acoustic of some church recordings) enhances the mainly subdued settings but is still lively enough to colour the big climaxes when they come.