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The Sixteen have now reached volume five in their Palestrina survey and, yet again, produce an efficient and lively apologia for the polyphonist that music students love to hate. It’s chiefly interesting for the Missa Iam Christus astra ascenderat with its inventively beguiling treatment of the eponymous plainchant hymn. once again, a clutch of the spiritually madrigalian Canticum Canticorum motets are included. Palestrina’s buttoned-up reputation might take a heavier knock from Rinaldo Alessandrini’s seductively unbuttoned Concerto Italiano, working hard to breathe a high-minded carnality into Il Primo Libro de’ Madrigali, utterly in keeping with its artfulness. Here is sensibility rather than sensuality, delivered with sostenuto and exquisitely refined word-painting. The booklet is disappointedly sans texts, but who cares when the soundworld is so gorgeous and the recording so intimate, leaving one feeling like a privileged guest in the private apartments of the cognoscenti?

REBECCA TAVENER Read the full review on Agora Classica

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