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Media Vita

Classica reviews Media Vita

Philippe Venturini, Classica (2 March, 2010)

Less celebrated than his contemporary Tallis, Sheppard nevertheless had the same life as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. His oeuvre combines both the Latin and English music which Stile Antico offers us, with commendable concern for contrast.

As usual, this young English group is distinguished by a keen sense of organisation in their programme – as much dramatic (contrasting contemplative and festive music) as instructive. The immense anthem for Lent Media Vita is placed at the centre of a structure which opens and closes with a Latin composition in which plainchant is alternated with polyphony. Sheppard’s polyphony is grand, full of ornament and long-breathed. However, his English anthems ‘reflect the Protestant desire for textual clarity’, as Matthew O’Donovan, one of the members of the ensemble, rightly states…

The ensemble distinguishes naturally between the decorative profusion in the Latin prayers and the vigorous clarity of the anthems… But Stile Antico, with their qualities of blend, true intonation and precision, also know how to vary the expression according to the text, from Marian devotion to grave meditation on the end of life (Media Vita), from firm assurance in the Resurrection (Christ rising again) to troubled prayer (Haste thee, O God).