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Sacred Vocal Music - Released October 12, 2010 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Distinctions Diapason d'or - Choc de Classica - Exceptional Sound Productions - Hi-Res Audio
The British vocal ensemble Stile Antico was established in 2001 and within its first decade has been acknowledged as one of the very finest early music groups, with multiple Grammy nominations, as well as Gramophone and Diapason d'or Awards. This album, Puer natus est: Tudor Music for Advent and Christmas, received a Diapason d'or Award in October 2010. One thing that sets this group apart from similar ensembles is the fact that it works without a conductor, making aesthetic decisions together and listening very, very closely to each for balance and tempos. It's possible to hear the singers' commitment to each other in their attentiveness to the subtlest nuances in dynamics and pacing. Their approach is ideal for this repertoire, English Renaissance polyphony, which demands intense concentration, absolutely secure intonation, and a carefully balanced blend to make its full impact. The centerpiece of the album is Thomas Tallis' incomplete Christmas mass, Missa Puer natus est, of which only three movements were written. The recording opens with Tallis' Advent motet, Videte miraculum, and includes four of William Byrd's settings of the Propers of the Mass, a Magnificat by Robert White, motets by John Tavener and John Sheppard, as well as the plainchant on which Tallis' mass is based. The mass movements are separated by the propers and motets, as would have been done in a liturgical setting. The gain in performance authenticity is tempered by the loss of continuity of hearing the mass as a complete unit. The flow of the selections is pleasant, but this ordering makes it hard to keep track of the unity of Tallis' work. Stile Antico sings with phenomenally pure tone. The women's voices have the chaste clarity associated with boys' voices, but deployed with a technical assurance and musical sensitivity beyond that of most boys. The sound of the ensemble is ravishing in its warmth and the evenness of its blend. The performances are expressive, but never idiosyncratically so; the singers have no interpretive agenda other than letting the composers' voices be heard as beautifully and authentically as possible. The sound of Harmonia Mundi's hybrid SACD is clear, absolutely clean, and suffused with warmth.
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released February 19, 2014 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Choc de Classica - Hi-Res Audio
The rising "phoenix" in the title of this release by the leaderless, 12-voice British choir Stile Antico carries several meanings. The album presents selections from the ten-volume 1920s publication Tudor Church Music, which had a great deal to do with the prevalence of English Renaissance choral music in the general choral scene of today. That book essentially revived the reputation of English music, but it has itself become shrouded in historical mists; the album marks both the original funding of Tudor Church Music by the Carnegie UK Trust and the centenary of that organization in 2013. The Tudor dynasty lasted for nearly 120 years in Britain (from 1485 to 1603), during which a great deal happened, both politically and musically. What you get here is not a greatest-hits selection from that period, but a mix that aims to convey the musical ambitions of the period more broadly. There are several well-known pieces that are part of the arsenal of many standing choirs: Gibbons' O clap your hands and Byrd's Mass for five voices (properly broken up the shorter pieces) and Ave verum corpus. But there are also larger works, in Latin, that let the choir really show its considerable ability to draw fine distinctions of texture. Consider Nolo mortem peccatoris by Thomas Morley, better known for stereotypical madrigals like Now is the month of maying. Nolo mortem peccatoris, a Latin anthem, is touched by Morley's madrigal language. Even more expressive is the harmonically experimental In ieunio et fletu of Tallis seemingly trying to atone for the simplicity of his Anglican church music. This is, in a nutshell, a fine selection of Renaissance choral music, sung by an unusual and extremely virtuosic choir, and well recorded in hybrid multichannel SACD sound (in, unfortunately, a completely unidentified location). Bravo.

Classical - Released April 14, 2009 | harmonia mundi

Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Award - Choc de Classica
The members of the British vocal ensemble Stile Antico, founded in 2001, have an exceptionally pure and youthful sound. In previous albums the group has explored English music of the Renaissance, and here it turns to sixteenth and early seventeenth settings of texts from the Song of Songs by a variety of continental composers. The selections include some of the masterworks of high Renaissance polyphony, including music by Nicolas Gombert, Orlande de Lassus, Jacob Clemens non Papa, Francisco Guerrero, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, and Tomás Luis de Victoria. The works by lesser composers, including Jean Lhéritier, Rodrigo de Ceballos, and Sebastián de Vivanco are no less impressive and affecting, especially in performances as polished and attentive as these. The elaborately polyphonic textures that prevail are effectively shown off and are kept from becoming too much of a good thing because they are interspersed with monophonic plainchant antiphons that serve as refreshing aural palate cleansers. The ensemble sings with immaculate intonation and an impressively broad expressive range. The group works without a conductor, and the sensitivity and attention that that demands of each member pays off beautifully in these performances, where they seem to operate as a single organic entity. The sound of the SACD is clean, but atmospheric and nicely ambient. The only caveat is that, through some anomaly of recording, some initial consonants, particularly "s" and "ch," have a percussive punch that works against the prevailing tone of smooth serenity.
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Classical - Released November 5, 2012 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Hi-Res Audio

Sacred Vocal Music - Released January 9, 2007 | harmonia mundi

Distinctions Diapason d'or de l'année - Diapason d'or - Choc du Monde de la Musique
This gorgeous release by the young English unaccompanied vocal group Stile Antico would be worth your time and money simply for the quiet, perfectly intoned singing on display here. But the album accomplishes more than vocal virtuosity. Stile Antico presents music by three generations of English choral composers, all of it from the Catholic sphere and all of it written for the late-evening Compline services of the liturgical day. That programming decision results in a collection of music that wouldn't have been heard in the sixteenth century (the older music of Sheppard probably wouldn't have lasted until the century's end) but that does make sense to the modern listener trying to learn to hear this music with Renaissance ears. The reason is that the program is ideally structured to lead the listener from Sheppard (and his contemporary Hugh Aston) to Thomas Tallis and his musical heir, William Byrd. The disc opens with a two-section "Libera nos" by Sheppard, rich and dense. It moves on to one of Byrd's sparsest compositions, the hymn "Christe, qui lux es et dies," which ironically seems to have been influenced by the severe homophony of Anglican service music. Sheppard is generously represented, and this disc is strongly recommended to anyone who has been intrigued with his music but has felt overwhelmed by an entire disc's worth of it -- it seems to give the modern listener little to hang on to, but when placed in contrast with the more ordered works of Tallis and Byrd it seems luxuriant. The program is tied together as well by the Compline themes, which lend the entire album a meditative cast that will appeal to casual listeners as strongly as it will to closely attentive ones. This is superb choral singing that stands out from the crowd of recordings of unaccompanied English music of the sixteenth century.
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released February 19, 2014 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Choc de Classica - Hi-Res Audio
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Classical - Released September 22, 2014 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4 étoiles Classica
The 16 voices of the British choir Stile Antico have a reputation for perfect blend and for programs that go beyond the favorites generally essayed by the similarly sized British choir the Sixteen. That's what's in this collection of motets (and the chanson Mille regretz) united by their connection to the Hapsburg court. It may be surprising to see Thomas Tallis under that rubric, but as the informative booklet points out, he makes the cut due to the marriage of Philip II of Spain to Mary Tudor. As that suggests, and as might be expected from a collection of pieces spanning a century, the Hapsburg factor does little to unite these pieces, even if the Emperor Maximilian does get name-checked at one point. Instead, this is simply a collection of intriguing Renaissance works that are generally beyond the ones normally heard. In the Tallis and several other pieces, the singers do an especially nice job with the striking dissonances that sometimes appear in music of the earlier Renaissance; they neither gloss over the dissonances nor overemphasize them. Big pieces like Heinrich Isaac's Virgo prudentissima contrast nicely with the the soberer idiom of the likes of Morales. In short, a very well recorded Renaissance a cappella program, marred by a needlessly confusing listing on the outer packaging that does not reflect the actual ordering of the music.
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released September 2, 2010 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
John Sheppard is a mysterious figure in 17th century English music; born around the time Henry VII defeated the Scots at the Battle of Flodden Field, no record of him is known until the time of the Third Succession Act of 1543, when he is identified as a choral instructor at Oxford. In 1548 Sheppard was named a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal and worked side by side with Thomas Tallis to create both English service anthems during the reign of Edward VI and Catholic service music in the service of Mary Tudor. Sheppard's greatest achievements were made in Latin settings, and he barely survived as an outbreak of the plague in 1558 carried him off. While his surviving output is not insubstantial, none of it was published in his lifetime and many of the source manuscripts are lacking elements and require patient editorial attention. This is partly why Sheppard is considered off the beaten track while Tallis is the best-known English composer of his era. However, Sheppard's music is of equal merit, a case that singing group stile antico makes very well on its Harmonia Mundi release Media vita and other liturgical works. The largest work on the program -- and arguably the largest English Latin-texted setting in sheer length of the 17th century -- is the title work, the enormous six-voice, 25 minutes long motet Media vita, sung here with absolute perfection by stile antico. This is only the fourth recording of the work made and it's easy to see why; it is so long and difficult for the chorus, yet when one lets it take over it is nearly as though the music itself, in stained glass colors, is rising up the sides of the walls. By highlighting this work and in using "Media vita" as the name above the door, stile antico is inviting direct comparison to the Tallis Scholars, who also used that device on the groundbreaking 1989 album on Gimell, the first ever devoted to Sheppard alone. However, among the remaining content there is nothing in common between the two discs, and the Tallis Scholars did not choose to explore any of the English anthems, which stile antico does here; "Christ rising again" is especially effective, and appears to be new to recordings. Anyone who loves Tallis, or has a deep-seated appreciation of English renaissance music in general, will not fail to find edification in this fine disc.

Sacred Vocal Music - Released April 5, 2013 | harmonia mundi

Distinctions Diapason d'or
The Heavenly Harmonies title of this disc might lead buyers to expect a general collection of sacred music, but in fact the program represents a unique juxtaposition of English Renaissance masters who are generally presented separately. One by one, the music alternates between Thomas Tallis' English-language Nine Psalm Tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter -- the very essence of severe Anglican homophony -- and the recusant Catholic William Byrd's richly expressive, inward motets and Mass Propers for Pentecost. The styles, as bass Matthew O'Donovan put it in the booklet, "may seem rather like chalk and cheese." Yet what the leaderless singers of the young British group Stile Antico are trying to show is that these composers inhabited a common universe even if ecclesiastical authorities did not. Tallis did not write plain chorale-like pieces but rather strove to create polyphony on a small, memorable scale. And Byrd, apparently deciding there was no reason the devil should have all the good tunes, adopted, especially in the music heard here, devices from the Anglican style when he wanted to express strong, individual spiritual emotion. Stile Antico's performances are ideal. For one thing, in music whose key characteristic is its response to text, the group articulates the words so clearly that you can understand every word of the English (and the Latin, if you've got it -- and all texts are given in English, Latin, French, and German in the booklet). And they sing the words with the expression the composers intended. Sample Byrd's anguished Infelix ego (Unhappy am I), set to a text by Italian radical Girolamo Savonarola of 100 years before Byrd's time: the sequence of questions, "Where shall I go?," "Where shall I turn?," To whom shall I flee?," "Who will have pity on me?" have an impact rarely matched among Renaissance recordings. The sound is marvelously clear, far beyond the norm for this kind of thing, and one is left wishing for more recording data -- beyond a photo caption referring to a recording session at church, there is none. This is a top-notch job all around that can be recommended equally to collectors of English choral music and listeners just beginning to understand the style worlds of Renaissance music.
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released December 6, 2011 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
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Classical - Released October 15, 2015 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Stile Antico's 2015 release on Harmonia Mundi, A Wondrous Mystery, is a sublime collection of Renaissance choral music for Christmas, presented in a pleasant mix of familiar German carols and a mass, with tracks interspersed for the sake of variety. This makes sense in consideration of the group's broad audience, which may know such popular hymns as Michael Praetorius' Ein Kind geborn in Bethlehem and Es ist ein Ros entsprungen, or Johannes Eccard's Übers Gebirg Maria geht and Vom Himmel hoch, yet be somewhat at a loss with the motet and Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis by Jacobus Clemens non Papa, a composer beloved by early music specialists but not exactly a household name for lay listeners. However, the a cappella performances are consistently beautiful and soothing throughout, and the quietly joyous mood of the music fits the album's title perfectly. The 12-voice choir's blend is well-balanced and transparent, and the ambience of All Hallow's Church, Gospel Oak, London gives an ideal resonance for the group's small size and close miking.

Classical - Released June 8, 2015 | harmonia mundi

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Classical - Released January 27, 2017 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Classical - Released October 15, 2015 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet