[ Harmonia Mundi / CD ]
Release Date: Friday 11 January 2019
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The regime of Queen Elizabeth I dealt harshly with supporters of the old Catholic religion. Torn between obedience and conscience, some of England's most talented musicians - Philips, Dering and Dowland - chose a life of exile abroad. Others chose to remain in spiritual isolation in England, comparing themselves to the exiled Israelites in Babylon. Amongst them were Robert White, whose five-part Lamentations are one of the glories of English music of any age, and William Byrd, whose anguished Catholic music is referenced in Shakespeare's enigmatic poem The Phoenix and the Turtle, vividly set by Huw Watkins especially for stile antico.
"Stile Antico, as ever, excel in plangency…[in Byrd's Quomodo cantabimus they] allow the texture to unfold with a gentle flow in what is some superb singing but I long for a more treble-dominated balance for such pointed texts. They find this is Huw Watkins's setting of Shakespeare's The Phoenix and the Turtle. Here, especially towards the end, they employ the sort of energy I would love to hear them bring to Byrd." Gramophone
"The dozen voices of Stile Antico give achingly expressive performances of Elizabethan masterpieces, all informed by their composers' Catholicism, steadfastly maintained under a Protestant regime." Sunday Times
"In a Strange Land: Elizabethan Composers in Exile (Harmonia Mundi) is the latest collection, released with unerring timeliness, from Stile Antico, the 12-strong ensemble whose name signals tonal purity, precision and musical intelligence. The theme is spiritual and political disjuncture" The Observer
"Stile Antico concentrate here on the English Catholic composers, who either moved to Europe in fear of persecution or stayed put and toed the line. They sing with glowing perfection and textural precision, as befits such polyphonic masterpieces as Byrd's Tristitia et anxietas, [Dering's] Monteverdian Factum est silentium and Dowland's Flow, my tears. There's also one 20th [21st!] century work, Huw Watkins' The Phoenix and the Turtle." The Scotsman *****
"This is a very thoughtfully constructed programme containing wonderful music. I've heard most of Stile Antico's previous discs and, unfailingly, I've been impressed not only by the sheer quality of their singing but also by the intelligence and understanding with which they approach the music. This latest release is right up to the standard that they've established. They've been beautifully recorded in the acoustic of All Hallows' Church. Producer Jeremy Summerly and engineer Brad Michel have presented the performances in excellent, sympathetic sound which reproduces the music with becoming clarity and an ideal amount of space around the voices. Matthew O'Donovan, one of Stile Antico's basses, always writes the booklet notes for the ensemble's discs. As ever, these notes are expert and highly readable." MusicWeb March 2019