Album Review

Posted: Wednesday 11th March 2009
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Crucifixus – Choir & Organ

Visits to the Capella Sistina are also made in Crucifixus, a collection of multi-part music for Holy Week sung by the Vasari Singers under Jeremy Backhouse. This ‘cream-cake’ compilation from the Billy Bunter school of programming will, no doubt, delight all their fans who want these popular Renaissance and Baroque works on one disc, and it is doubtful if any of the world’s leading amateur chamber choirs could do it better. It speaks volumes for the group’s dedication and commitment, but one can’t help feeling that Backhouse has done his singers a disservice be not resisting the temptation to stretch his forces too far. They sing with well-blended tone, wide dynamic range, and only occasional lapses of intonation. It’s all attractively done, if somewhat over directed at times, with rhetorically exaggerated dynamics making Gesualdo’s O vos omnes sound like a fifth sacred piece by Verdi! On the whole they are impressively secure in the more simply-scored repertoire which, and any choral singer can vouch, is not by any means easy to do well. It does them credit that the sustained sonorities of Palestrina’s Stabat Matar and Felice Anerio’s Christus factus est are so movingly captured, and they clearly appreciate the dissonance and tension in works by Gesualdo and Lotti. Where things become fragile are in the multi-voice works: Allegri’s Miserere, Caldara’s Crucifixus and the Stabat Matar of Domenico Scarlatti, which rely heavily on soloists. An admirably courageous recording.

Paul Cutts
Choir & Organ