Friday, 3 December, 2021 at 7:30 pm
St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, United Kingdom
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Andrew Stewart, Classic FM Magazine (December 2010)
History’s haze has obscured the original of Tallis’s Mass Puer natus est nobis. It might have been performed by Mary Tudor’s Chapel Royal during Christmas 1554 or written as a university degree exercise. Whatever the case, it stands as a masterwork of Tudor sacred music and supplies the backbone of Stile Antico’s irresistible seasonal programme. Other treasures here include Robert White’s expansive, virtuosic Magnificat and Sheppard’s coruscatingly beautiful Verbum caro.
Conductorless Stile Antico may be, but they could never be accused of lacking direction of clear-sighted commitment to the works on this generously filled album. Individual members of the group, 14-strong in several pieces here, bear full responsibility for their work and for sticking limpet-like to the basic pulse and occasional fluctuations from it. The approach encourages long-range thinking about music, inviting the ear to contemplate soaring architecture rather than surface detail.
Repeated hearings have done nothing to shorten the depth or diminish the intensity of first impressions left by Stile Antico’s work here. Puer natus est is for life, not just for Christmas!