Album Review

Posted: Tuesday 10th November 1998
Share this:

Crucifixus – BBC Music Magazine

The Vasari Singers are an amateur choir, and a very fine one. If they need a split second for chords to settle, for voices to focus, the pay-off is a captivating ardour and commitment. Momentary slips, of intonation below a gloriously effortless soprano top C in Allegri’s Miserere mei, of hard-driven soloists in the liveliest sections of Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater – these are a small price to pay for such a fresh, enthusiastic sound.

The Singers, and Backhouse, are fearless too. This taxing programme begins with seven unaccompanied pieces in which pitch remains admirably stable – Palestrina’s eight-part Stabat Mater, ‘Crucifixus’ settings in six, eight and ten parts by Lotti, the harmonic maze of a Gesualdo motet.

High spots for me are the almost unbearably tortured harmonies of Lotti’s six-part Crucifixus, the dense, enveloping sonority of his eight-part setting, the spaciousness of both distant semi-chorus and of slow paced chant in Allegri’s Miserere mei. Another Crucifixus by Caldara is denser still – in 16 parts from this 26-strong choir – with a hypnotic harmonic sequence surrounding Christ’s entombment.

Excellent recorded sound capitalises on the acoustics of a fine London church, retaining a ‘presence’ with sustained ambient sound between the tracks.

George Pratt
BBC Music Magazine