Blair Sanderson
AllMusic, USA
January 2019

A sublime survey of sacred music of the high Renaissance, Hyperion's 2019 release Amarae Morti offers transparent performances by Peter Phillips and the a cappella chamber choir El León de Oro. Covering music of the Franco-Flemish and Iberian schools, the program follows a trajectory from darkness to light, from somber motets by Dominique Phinot, Orlande de Lassus, Nicolas Gombert, and Manuel Cardoso to glorious works by Tomás Luis de Victoria, Cristóbal de Morales, and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. There is a consistency of subjects in the program, which includes settings of the Lamentations, Media Vita, the Regina Coeli, and the Magnificat, revealing different treatments of these familiar texts and varying levels of complexity and contrapuntal mastery, which culminate in the magnificent polychoral works of Victoria and Palestrina. The 33-voice Spanish choir El León de Oro presents luminous interpretations of these sometimes melancholy but often ethereal pieces, and the direction of early music specialist Phillips, who also leads the famed Tallis Scholars, is as impeccable as ever, with an ear to finding the clearest textures in even the richest part writing. The album was recorded in the Church of St. James the Greater in Sariego, Asturias, so the pure 16th century counterpoint is heard to best advantage in its warmly vibrant acoustics.