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Media Vita

American Record Guide enjoys Media Vita

GATENS, American Record Guide (June 2010)

This disc contains some of the most stunningly beautiful and moving choral singing I have ever heard. The tone is warm, with flawless blend and ensemble. More important, these are coherent and engaging performances that never lose their way in technical thickets. The major work here is the Compline antiphon ‘Media Vita’. It is a somber piece, but I would not describe it as gloomy. Handled well, as it is here, it evokes what I can only describe as penitential ecstasy – if that is not an oxymoron. It is a gigantic work that frames the plainsong canticle Nunc Dimittis. The singers here set a slow pace, but the performance is almost miraculously coherent. The surface tension never breaks for a moennt. I must confess that I nearly dreaded the prospect of listening to an unaccompanied polyphonic work lasting nearly half an hour. In the end, this performance left me wishing for more. A lesser choir would undoubtedly have made it sound tedious.

Sheppard is perhaps the least known of the Tudor great composers. In recent years he has been getting more of his due with outstanding recordings by the Sixteen, the Tallis Scholars, the Gabrieli Consort, the choir of Christ Church, Oxford, and others. Anyone with even a slight interest in his music will certainly want to acquire this recording. (Gatens)