BBC Music Magazine
An Enduring Voice
Works by Wylkynson, Fayrfax, Sheppard, Tavener, Macmillan, Jackson & Whitacre The Sixteen/harry Christophers Coro COR 16170 77:15 mins
This year is the 40th anniversary of The Sixteen and this event has attracted a flurry of concerts and recordings. A commemorative ‘40th Anniversary Collection’
should now be in the shops, but this single disc is devoted to their two strong polarities – English music from the early Renaissance and contemporary choral music.
They are at their best in fulsome textures, and indeed (despite their name) 27 singers are listed in the booklet, though not all of them sing on all tracks. Notwithstanding the numbers, the intricate part writing of Sheppard’s Gloria from his Cantate Mass evinces performances of great lucidity and grace, together with some ethereal and pliable duetting. The Wylkynson Salve Regina fares less well. It is better paced than their recording from volume three of their Eton Choirbook collection, but is sung at a lower pitch here and has murky moments. It also seems to be a reissue of the version on last year’s Star of Heaven disc. The James Macmillan O virgo prudentissima is a wonderful work, magically performed, but also seems to be a reissue from the same disc. The two Tavener hymns to the Mother of God were first recorded on their Ikon of Light disc (2003), but here they give us new, deeper interpretations, full of stillness and spiritual energy. An impressive demonstration of storytelling comes in their rendering of Eric Whitacre’s Sainte-chapelle – they capture perfectly the interplay of sounds as a young girl enters the chapel and begins to sing with the angels. Anthony Pryer