Tune thy Musicke in the San Francisco Chronicle
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle (19 February, 2012)
Alongside the more grandiose music composed for court and cathedral, 16th century England was a fertile ground for the creation of music for private worship services. This richly appealing new release by the excellent vocal ensemble Stile Antico – abetted here and there by the viol consort Fretwork – offers a tour through the range of this tradition. And what’s immediately striking, aside from the sheer beauty and fastidiousness of the music, is the stylistic range that’s encompassed here. Some of the pieces have a clear link with the sacred polyphony of the European continent, others to the secular madrigal, and still others to the simple but deeply expressive lute song. A number of the composers represented here are B-listers, but the overall quality of the music is high, and there are wondrous surprises lurking throughout – the sudden appearance of triplet rhythms in John Browne’s gorgeously direct “Jesu, mercy, how may this be?” or the aching dissonances of John Dowland’s “I shame at my unworthiness.” The catchiest and yet most sublimely spiritual selection here is Thomas Campion’s “Never weather-beaten sail,” which repays repeated listening. All of the music is sung with clarity and precision.