Victoria: Missa de Beata Maria Virgine; Missa Surge Propera etc – review

Westminster Cathedral Choir/Baker
(Hyperion)

The latest Victoria disc from Westminster Cathedral arrives at the end of a year that has seen a number of important releases to mark the 400th anniversary of the composer's death. Standards have been high, and in comparison with some of those recent issues there seems a lack of distinctiveness about these Westminster Cathedral Choir performances. The rather "English" sound that was a minor shortcoming on earlier instalments seems more of a problem here; it combines with the relatively large forces – more than 40 singers are listed in the sleeve notes – and the very resonant cathedral acoustic to make the music seem generalised, remote and monumental in a way that seems entirely inappropriate for domestic listening. It's a pity because, a few moments of unruliness apart, the performances of both the masses here are thoughtful and beautifully shaped, and neither the plainchant-based Missa de Beata Maria Virgine nor the parody mass Missa Surge Propera, based upon a Palestrina motet, has been recorded many times before.

Contributor

Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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