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‘Divine Theatre’ warmly praised

Holly Harris, Winnipeg Free Press (26 Jan, 2017)

Leave it to acclaimed British vocal ensemble Stile Antico to breathe new life — literally — into music written by seldom-heard composers. The ensemble’s latest album features a selection of motets by 16th-century Franco-Flemish composer Giaches de Wert, who spent most of his life in Italy and notably published only three collections of sacred a cappella works between 1566-81.

Each of the 13 selections brims with the experimentalism that Wert, also hailed for the madrigals for which he became known for. Such works including the five-part Gaudete in Domino, and Amen, amen dico vobis feature an abundance of tone painting, as does Ascendente Jesu, including its narrative’s stormy seas depicted by wild syncopation, before eventually subsiding into calmer, more consonant waters.

The 13-voice troupe also seamlessly delivers the larger-scale works, including Saule, Saule and Egressus Jesus, with both featuring fluid polychoral technique. The latter piece provides the greatest thrill of all, as the choristers finally break into ecstatic, seven-part counterpoint that also bears testament to this fine ensemble’s musical skill and unflinching resolve.