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From the Imperial Court

High praise from Audiophile Audition

Steven Ritter, Audiophile Audition (30 July, 2014)

The nearly 1000-year rule of the Hapsburg dynasty in Europe—surely a record among monarchical institutions in the history of the world—also had, besides many obvious drawbacks—a league of radiant perks to the history of western music. Just a glance at the composers listed on Stile Antico’s new and brilliant surround sound recording proves the point. Virtually all of these men were artists of the highest caliber, and many resonate even today among non-ancient music lovers, an example of how important many of their works have shown to be in the general music-loving populace. Yet the main focus of the program covers around a 100-year period, particularly in the reign of the Emperor Maximilian and his immediate successors, through his grandson Charles V and his son Philip II. It is this last that the most “cheating” occurs on this program, bringing in the dubious, though hardly unwelcome, presence of Thomas Tallis, the connections tentatively made as Philip’s marriage to Mary Tudor might have meant that the motet Loquebantur variis linguis was performed jointly by the Spanish Capilla Flamenca and the Mary’s Chapel Royal. Who knows?

The pieces here are generally of a religious nature, with the exception of Ludwig Senfl’s paean to Maximilian, Quis dabit oculis, and the interesting (though textually overblown) Clemens non Papa tribute to Charles, Carole magnus eras. As usual—and it’s becoming a habit—Stile Antico’s performances are big, gorgeous, and highly moving renditions, while Harmonia mundi’s surround sound is superb in every way.