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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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Into the Light
Juan de ANCHIETA (1462-1523)
Con amores, la mi madre*+ [2:30]
Johann PACHELBEL (1653-1706)
Canon*+ [3:38]
Tomás Luis de VICTORIA (1548-1611)
O quam gloriosum est regnum [6:38]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Five Preludes
Gaspar FERNANDES (1570-1629)
A negrito de cucurumbé*+ [2:54]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS
Aria (Cantelina) Bachiana Brasiliera No.5*+ [7:11]
Francisco TÁRREGA (1852-1968)
Recuerdos de la Alhambra [4:12]
Mario CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895-1968)
From: Romancero gitano*
Procesión [1:57]
Paso [2:25]
Saeta [2:28]
Thomas TALLIS (1505-1585)
God grant we grace*+ [2:18]
Tomás Luis de VICTORIA
Alma Redemptoris Mater* [5:03]
Miguel LLOBET (1878-1938)
Canço de lladre [1:59]
Alexander BORODIN (1833-1887)
Polovtsian Dance*+ [4:07]
Kaori Muraji (guitar)
The Sixteen/Harry Christophers*
Bob Chilcott (arranger)+
rec. St Giles, Cripplegate, London, 17-20 July 2006
DECCA 475 8199 [68:05]



A little bit like the Gabrieli Consort’s ‘Road to Paradise’, this would appear to be a programme with a concept behind it. This is not however given any explanation in the booklet as, apart from the complete song texts given only in their original languages, there are no further notes at all.
 
With “Into the Light,” The Sixteen are joined by classical guitarist Kaori Muraji, an award-winning performer from Japan who already has a brace of Decca releases in the shops. The programme on this disc spans the great European choral tradition and combines some familiar works with the gentle sound of the classical guitar. This certainly makes for a unique choral album, and with arrangements made specifically for this recording by Bob Chilcott, formerly of the King’s Singers, one can get some idea of what you might expect.
 
One of the nicest aspects of this kind of collection are the contrasts which can be built in. Unity is preserved through the quality of the voices and the accompaniment, but as a for instance, the pared down solo and guitar first part of both of the Victoria works have a magical transition to the purely choral second part. Kaori Muraji is both a sensitive accompanist and a musically accomplished soloist, proving impressive in the Villa-Lobos Preludes, numbers 3 and 5 also having choral parts added and a vocal solo from soprano Grace Davidson. Purists may resist such mucking about, but these arrangements work surprisingly well, and anyone with a taste for the gentle choral writing of, say, Herbert Howells, will almost certainly find these interesting and attractive.
 
Contrast is a factor in the more rhythmic and declamatory style of Gaspar Fernandes’s A negrito de cucurumbe, with which the guitar sounds very much at home. I am a little less keen on the arrangement of Villa-Lobos’s Aria. The guitar takes on the part of the cellos, and the choral arrangement has a little too much of that ‘Autumn Leaves’ feel – all very nice, but you don’t really come away feeling that the tune will stay with you for the rest of the day. While on the subject of unusual arrangements: the Pachelbel Canon has been turned by Chilcott into a prayer for the dead by adding text from a poem by Oscar Wilde titled “Requiescat.” Muraji’s guitar plays variations over the choir as they move through the canon, which is of course one of those pieces which will survive just about any treatment.
 
Another evergreen classic is the Tárrega Recuerdos de la Alhambra, which is nicely placed between the Villa-Lobos Aria and three movements from Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Romancero gitano on poems by Federico García Lorca – taken by the choir, or the bass voice of Eamonn Dougan.

“God Grant we Grace” is a blessing from a hymn by 16th-century English church composer Thomas Tallis, the mixed voices of The Sixteen blending beautifully in an ‘enriched’ arrangement of this touching canon. The disc concludes with the gently lyrical guitar solo Canço del lladre by Migule Llobet, and ‘that tune’ from Borodin’s Prince Igor.
 
As a package, this beautifully recorded and performed CD works extremely well. Falling just short of being over-sentimental, it does however lean heavily towards the sweeter kind of repertoire beloved by wedding planners and the like. The question is whether you want to buy into this perfumed sound-world, and, not being able to answer this question on your behalf, suggest you sample a few tracks for yourself. One thing is for sure, I will gain many brownie points with the mother-in-law if I give it to her for her birthday.
 
Dominy Clements  
 



 


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