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A Spanish Nativity

‘A Spanish Nativity’ welcomed by The Arts Desk

Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk (21 December, 2019)

Stile Antico’s seasonal disc centres on Alonso Lobo’s Missa Beata Dei genitrix, first published in 1602. Lobo cheekily lifted material from the Beata Dei genitrix Maria composed by his teacher Franciso Guerrero; compare the opening of Lobo’s “Kyrie” to the Guerrero and you’ll hear the similarity. Its five movements are interspersed with a selection of motets and carols from Spain’s Siglo de Oro. The carols are a good entry point: Guerrero’s “A un niño llorando” is a delight, an account of three humbled kings visiting “a child crying in the cold”. A highlight is the effervescent “Ríu ríu chíu” by Mateo Flecha ‘El Viejo”. Flecha‘s “El Jubilate” is one of the composer’s ensaladas, a witty, metrically irregular number relating how Mary defeats the devil. The Lobo mass contains much stunning music, particularly a solemn but ecstatic “Gloria”, but I’d argue that the greatest work on this CD is Victoria’s stark, powerful O magnum mysterium. Stile Antico’s performance is flawless, the group’s technical prowess never at the expense of expressive warmth.