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Brilliant Classics

Giovanni Pierluigi Da PALESTRINA Stabat Mater* [11’16"]
Gregorio ALLEGRI Miserere* [12’38"]
Robert RAMSEY How are the mighty fallen *[7’41"]
Thomas WEELKES When David Heard* [4’27"]
Thomas TALLIS Lamentations of Jeremiah (First Set) [7’29"]
Tomas Luis de VICTORIA O Vos Omnes [2’32"]
Josquin des PREZ Déploration sur le mort d’Ockeghem [4’47"]
Carlo GESUALDO O Vos Omnes [2’56"]
Giovanni Pierluigi Da PALESTRINA Super Flumina [3’47"]
Josquin des PREZ Absalon Fili Mi [3’54"]
William BYRD Civitas Sancti Tui [4’21"]
Thomas TOMKINS When David Heard [4’40"]
George KIRBYE Vox in Rama [4’32"]
Choir of Clare College, Cambridge/Timothy Brown
Recorded in *Jesus College Chapel, Cambridge; All Saints Church, Aldwinckle, near Cambridge. No dates specified.
PAL DVD 16:9 All formats
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The choir of Clare College, Cambridge is one of the finest one can hear in that city and university, which means it’s also one of the finest of the cathedral or collegiate choirs in the United Kingdom. Under its long-serving Director of Music, Timothy Brown, it consistently achieves top class standards of technique and musicianship. These high standards are very evident on this DVD.

I may as well get the one criticism that I have out of the way at once. Brilliant Classics provide the texts in the insert booklet, either in English or, in the case of the items sung in Latin, the texts and an English translation. But that’s it. There are no notes about the music, at least some of which is likely to be unfamiliar to the general collector. That’s a pity, I think, for otherwise this DVD offers a splendid opportunity to savour some wonderful, eloquent music in first rate performances. I would also have welcomed a little information about the locations in which the filming took place, especially about the church at Aldwinckle, where most of the items were performed.

The first four pieces were filmed in the chapel of Jesus College, Cambridge. The pieces by Ramsey and Weelkes were shot in a fairly conventional choir stall setting. The more substantial Palestrina and Allegri items were recorded elsewhere (in the narthex?) and this setting provided an opportunity which has been grasped by the director. With the main body of the choir arranged at ground level, the four singers who form the semi-chorus in the Allegri are placed in a clerestory above their colleagues. This gives an effect of physical separation that is both musically and visually pleasing.

The remainder of the programme was filmed in All Saints Church, Aldwinckle. I can offer no information whatsoever about this church but it is a very much more austere building than the chapel of Jesus College. I would hazard a guess that it is several hundred years older as well. It provides a splendid backdrop to the performances and although, inevitably, much of the camerawork focuses on the singers, the director has chosen several different locations in the church to do his filming and the cameras are allowed to show us some of the architectural details of what seems to be a fine church. It also sounds to have a more resonant acoustic than Jesus College chapel.

On my stereo television set, which is not geared up to play through my audio system, the sound throughout the recital was consistently pleasing. I’m sure people with a more sophisticated set up than mine will get even better results.

Whatever equipment you use to play this DVD I am confident you’ll be impressed by the standard of the performances, which are uniformly excellent. The tuning, dynamic control and balance are first rate and Timothy Brown has prepared his singers expertly so that all the strands of the polyphony emerge clearly yet naturally. The music is well chosen, mixing familiar items such as the Tallis ‘Lamentations’ and Tomkins’ masterly ‘When David heard’ (splendidly done here) with items that were less familiar at least to me, such as the typically original setting by Gesualdo.

I enjoyed both the musical and visual aspects of this DVD very much. If the programme appeals, you can invest with confidence.

John Quinn


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