The Flowering Of Genius / The Sixteen

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Choral music fans without doubt are ecstatic about the return of The Sixteen choir--on its own Coro label--and certainly won't mind too much that many of the performances originally issued on the old and sadly departed Collins label are returning, albeit repackaged and in some cases reprogrammed along with some previously unreleased material. This disc consists primarily of previously issued performances--from both Collins and Virgin Classics--but the program is designed to celebrate the glorious flowering of music arising from England's official but brief return to Roman Catholicism under Mary Tudor and her Spanish husband Philip II.

Thus, we hear once again the soaring, grand musical edifices that so perfectly embody, enhance, and complement the huge cathedral spaces for which they were written, works by the English Tallis, Byrd, and Sheppard, the Spanish Victoria and Guerrero, and the Belgian Philippe de Monte who for a time served in King Philip II's private chapel. Apparently new to The Sixteen's discography are several motets by Victoria, recorded in 1997, including O vos omnes and Super flumina Babylonis. Among the other highlights are the (reissued) sublimely beautiful Ave Virgo sanctissima by Guerrero, Tallis' Suscipe quaeso, de Monte's own setting of Super flumina, and Sheppard's monumental and magnificent Verbum caro.

The sound varies not a bit from the original incarnations of these performances, which means a somewhat bright, trebly cast that saturates and penetrates just a little too much in the loudest full-choir passages. The singing can't be bettered, however--no ensemble sustains those long lines in such shapely, elegant fashion nor builds tension through gradual crescendos, nor knows how to layer and interweave parts more effectively than The Sixteen at its best.

My only major concern about this release is the user-unfriendly packaging. The only proper track listings are on the outside back of the plastic jewel case. The liner note booklet contains only an informative discussion of the music along with texts--but the names of the composers don't appear next to the work titles, forcing you to have to go back and forth from liner notes to the jewel-box tray card. The back of the liner note booklet, a common place for track listings, times, and composers' names, contains nothing but promotional blurbs for other Coro releases and--in type so small it's nearly off the readability scale--a rundown on the origins of the various musical selections. Since this information is not on the outside of the package, a prospective buyer has no way of knowing if the performances are new or reissued. I strongly urge a clearer, more practical approach to future packaging. Fortunately, the music and performances merit the highest praise and are worth hearing over and over again.
--David Vernier,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: COR16001

  • UPC: 828021600128

  • Label: Coro

  • Composer: Francisco Guerrero, John Sheppard, Philippe de Monte, Thomas Tallis, Tomás Luis de Victoria, William Byrd

  • Conductor: Harry Christophers

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: The Sixteen