Thursday, 4 February, 2021 at 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm
St Martin-in-the-Fields: Fresh Horizons
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Jeremie Noyer, Tutti Magazine
The British vocal ensemble Stile Antico revives the subtle art of the composer John Sheppard, and so puts right a centuries-long injustice.
Until now, the only collection devoted to Sheppard was the work of the legendary Tallis Scholars. An irony, when one considers that Sheppard’s music has long been eclipsed by the work of Thomas Tallis himself!
This injustice – also due to the fact that his music exists only in handwritten sources, whereas his competitor’s reaches us chiefly in printed form – is now redressed by this beautiful programme, the fourth disc by the vocal ensemble Stile Antico.
This group, formed of young British singers, has since 2005 quickly achieved renown, and has been distinguished by many awards for a remarkable technique and a perfection of intonation typical of the English choral school, alongside a presence and warmth of timbre and texture which equals today’s finest Franco-Flemish ensembles. To add to that tantalizing portrait, these young singers work without director, each bringing their personality and ideas to the ensemble. The result is an unmatched clarity and transparency, in which no voice is trivial or neglected.
Nevertheless, the success of this project lies not only with the vocal and musical qualities of this group. Its intelligence is also found in the choice of programme. It is true that it is difficult to ‘sell’ Renaissance music to a large public, since at first this repertoire can seem unvaried. However, Stile Antico’s programme is full of diversity, be it at the level of genre (responsory, anthem, hymn), language (Latin alternating with English), or texture (homophony, respond), constantly renewing our attention and enabling us better to appreciate all the subtleties of Sheppard’s art: vocal opulence, harmonic surprise of every kind, original melodic lines.
We imagine the astonishment and, doubtless, the admiration, of the courts of Queen Mary or Henry VIII, and can share in it today.
A beautiful renaissance for a composer – which is worth the trouble!