The Sunday Times
February 2015

Without the Baldwin partbooks—owned by Christ Church College, Oxford—we would know nothing of John Sheppard's magnum opus, Media vita in morte sumus, which gives this superlative album its title. John Baldwin sang in the choir of St George's Chapel, Windsor, between 1575 and 1581, during which time he copied some 170 works by the greatest composers of the Tudor age, from John Taverner (c1490-1545) to William Byrd (c1539/43-1623). He then moved to the Chapel Royal, where he took part in Elizabeth I's funeral service and the coronation of James I in 1603. The tenor book is lost, so the tenor lines of Sheppard's epic masterpiece, Robert Parsons' Peccantem me quotidie, Dericke Gerarde's Sive vigilem and Tallis's Nunc dimittis are reconstructions. At the album's thematic heart are 'recusant' works by Byrd. Rees's choir brings an intensity of sound and dramatic dynamics, in music that contemplates the pain of death in ecstatic elation and sublime devotion.