Excellent review of Athens debut
Eftychios D. Choriatakis, athinorama.gr (26 June, 2017)
The concert given the other day (18/6) by the excellent British polyphonic ensemble Stile Antico pleased us greatly, not only for the quality of the programme, but for the welcome opportunity to fill a constant void in our domestic music life – the absence of concerts purely of choral works, let alone those of the Renaissance.
The programme, entitled ‘In A Strange Land’, revolved around polyphonic music by English composers of the Elizabethan period (second half of the 16th century), who were exiled or marginalized because of their Catholic sympathies. The talented and exceptionally flexible twelve-member group interpreted the works of composers who took the path of exile, such as Philips, Dering and Dowland, and those who remained in the country and expressed via their work their opposition to the official religious policy of Queen Elizabeth I, like William Byrd, Robert White, and Tallis.
With constantly changing vocal groupings and stage positioning (even singing from behind the scenes in Dowland’s In this trembling shadow cast), with the high female voices blossoming in beautiful contrast to the darkest male timbres, and possessing impeccable diction and phrasing and with frequent artful variations of dynamic, this fast-rising British group surprised us with the expressiveness, sincerity and nobility of its interpretations. Distancing itself from the traditional English choral delivery of cold perfection (“angelic”, but emotionally dry) and without a conductor, Stile Antico astonished us with a unique transparency of sound, solid technique and physical restraint. Excellent sense of line, harmonious beauty and elegant melismas and narrative purity characterised not only the relatively short compositions but also the two most extensive pieces, Byrd’s Tristitia et anxietas and White’s Lamentations a5, melodically imaginative and contrapuntally complex religious masterpieces of great emotional force.