The Standard relishes Stile at the Wigmore Hall
Barry Millington, London Evening Standard (12 May, 2014)
Twelve voices singing unaccompanied, without a conductor, Stile Antico achieve miracles of precision in ensemble and tuning. Their Treasures of the Renaissance programme, broadcast live by BBC Radio 3, neatly demonstrated the tonal and expressive variety of which they are capable. Liturgical settings such as Gombert’s Magnificat were projected with a more direct, even brusque, delivery, in which the edge the sopranos bring was emphasised.
But a group of settings of the erotic Song of Solomon showed (particularly in the ravishing Ego Flos Campi by Clemens non Papa) that they could be sensuous too. While the Spanish composers Sebastian de Vivanco and Rodrigo de Ceballos revelled in the sometimes startlingly voluptuous imagery, others such as Lassus appeared to cleave to the official view that it was all an allegory, with bridegroom and bride representing Christ and the Church.
Welcome, too, were the urgency and passion Stile Antico brought to such pieces as Byrd’s Vigilate. The turtle dove familiar from the Song of Solomon makes a reappearance in Shakespeare’s The Phoenix and the Turtle, the text for a commission from Huw Watkins.
Stile Antico don’t normally venture beyond the Baroque, but they were no less accomplished in Watkins’ elegiacally beautiful setting of Shakespeare’s enigmatic allegory.