And The Sun Darkened: Music for Passiontide / New York Polyphony
Resonating across more than five centuries, expressions of personal piety and prayer fill these works by a quartet of Franco-Flemish composers, all born in the 15th century, and their modern-day colleagues, Estonian Cyrillus Kreek (1889—1962) and British-Norwegian Andrew Smith (b. 1970). For those familiar with the vocal ensemble New York Polyphony and its previous, acclaimed releases on BIS, this exploration of the intersection of ancient and modern music is far from surprising: the group is known for its innovative programming. On And the sun darkened the four members follow Josquin’s celebrated motet Tu pauperum refugium with Andrew Smith’s setting of Psalm 55 – composed for NYP, it is a lament which nevertheless closes with an expression of confidence in God’s justice. Sung in Estonian another biblical psalm is heard in Kreek’s Taaveti laul 22 (‘David’s 22nd Song’), the text ‘My God, why have you forsaken me’ preparing the listener for the work that has given the disc its title. Officium de Cruce by Loyset Compère is a setting of a 14th-century hymn which follows the episodes of the Passion in a continuously flowing musical narrative: from the betrayal of Christ to his death – when the sun darkened – and entombment.
The vocal quartet New York Polyphony has excelled with a fine vocal blend and programs of Renaissance and contemporary choral music that often touch on underrepresented repertory. Josquin is present, but only with a single piece, and the focus is on his much less often heard contemporaries and successors, Loyset Compère, Pierre de la Rue, and Adrian Willaert. The one-voice-per-part forces of New York Polyphony may be an obstacle for some, inasmuch as this is not how Josquin was meant to be performed; the group's singing has a madrigalesque quality, and that's not everyone's cup of tea, but this might be the album to check out for those who have been wanting to sample New York Polyphony's work. Another attraction is BIS's sound, captured in Princeton Abbey in New Jersey; it's entirely distinct from that of the big English chapels where most recordings this repertory are made, and it's absorbingly inward.
– AllMusicGuide.com (James Manheim)
The four member, standard setting chamber vocal ensemble New York Polyphony continues to transfix listeners with their pure, dynamically balanced and deeply expressive a cappella singing. It's hard to believe how a group of only four male voices can sound like much more than the sum of its parts. Regardless of which century the members of New York Polyphony happen to explore at any given moment, you can sense their deep respect and understanding of both the text and music at all times. Their perfectly matched voices create a sonic canopy akin to the nave of a gothic cathedral, with audio engineering to match. Guaranteed you will feel the urge to listen to this recording many times over.
– Classical Music Sentinel (Jean-Yves Duperron, 2021)
Catalog Number: BIS-2277
Composer: Adrian Willaert, Andrew Smith, Cyrillus Kreek, Josquin des Prez, Loyset Compère, Pierre de La Rue
Orchestra/Ensemble: New York Polyphony