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Early Music Today heard Stile Antico in York

Jonathan Wikeley, Early Music Today (October 2009)

Stile Antico is hot property nowadays and was hardly likely to turn down a gig at York – it was through taking part in the Young Artists Competition a few years ago that they got their break. This was a new programme, ‘In Paradisum: Swansongs and Memorials by Renaissance Masters’. Spanning more than two centuries of music, it was a programme of works by composers aware of their own mortality. William Byrd’s plangent Retire my Soul opened the concert, followed by plainsong taken from the Requiem service, which sandwiched all the polyphonic works. Dufay’s Ave regina caelorum was much more strident, the basses providing a particularly grippling platform on which the rest of the parts moved. The highlight of the concert was John Sheppard’s Media vita, a vast work, which was beautifully paced by the group – another motet that mirrored the great arching roof of York Minster’s chapter house particularly well. Works by Gombert, Josquin, Lobo (the particularly beautiful Versa es in luctum), Schütz and Lassus followed in the second half, with an encore in the form of Tallis’ Te lucis ante terminum. This was a wonderfully homogenous sound: the ensemble sings through the phrases in such a way that gives direction while never appearing rushed.