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Song of Songs

The San Francisco Chronicle reviews Song of Songs

Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle (1 May, 2009)

Renaissance composers were quick to latch onto the Song of Songs as source material, and for perfectly good reasons. The book’s ardent love poetry and lush eroticism offer plenty of opportunity for sensuality – but because the texts are biblical, they come with the respectable imprimatur of the church. It’s a win-win proposition, and this gorgeous assemblage of settings by some of the leading figures of 16th century polyphony demonstrates why. In suave, finely tuned performances by the young British vocal ensemble Stile Antico, the music is at once stately and inviting, devotional and, well, sexy. The balance between those poles varies with the composer, from the intricate but impeccably chaste settings of Palestrina to the brighter and earthier music of Gombert and Lassus. At the far end (the high end, for some of us) is the voluptuous, extravagantly beautiful work of Spaniard Tómas Luis de Victoria, which is everything that love music can and should be.