David Thorne
Cathedral Music
November 2019

El León de Oro is a 40-strong Spanish group which rose to fame in the UK when they won the London International A Cappella Choral Competition in 2014. This disc, recorded in 2016, features the choir in performances of Renaissance polyphony under Peter Phillips in his capacity as honorary director. Most of the composers represented are well known, although Dominique Phinot and Manuel Cardoso might only be more familiar to specialists of the genre. Much of the music is extremely reflective, but this youthful ensemble captures the mood of the settings admirably. The Lamentations of Jeremiah are set in works by Phinot, Lassus and Cardoso. Phillips describes Phinot’s setting as ‘clearly experimental’. The work is scored for two SATB choirs, although these resources are only used for block writing in the TB or SA movements. All the works are much embellished by highly stylistic singing. The settings by Lassus and Cardoso are both very fine and, despite the large ensemble, there is no detraction from the significant word painting which permeates the compositions. Joyful and more optimistic moments are to be found in the three Regina caeli pieces by Lassus, Victoria and Morales. Many immaculate recordings by some professional groups of this period can lack vibrancy, tone and passion, but these interpretations reflect true commitment to the texts. Moreover, David Rowell’s sound balance and Adrian Peacock’s production are both of an extremely high standard whilst Peter Phillips’ liner notes are, as usual, highly informative.