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Palestrina, once the dreaded bane of students of harmony and counterpoint, has become the flavour of many months as a wide variety of recordings from diverse ensembles proves the undeniable purity and craftsmanship of his music. Elsewhere in these review pages you’ll find him at home in the Sistine Chapel, but here he is in the Big Apple for Roma æterna, an SACD recording from the gentlemen of New York Polyphony, one to a part at low pitch, whose refinement, profound understanding, beautiful balance and blend, gorgeously toned voices, and crystalline clarity in deep acoustics grace a reading of the Missa Papae Marcelli, intelligently framed in semi-liturgical context. With Victoria’s Missa O quam gloriosum and a clutch of motets, this is a richly filled disc.

By contrast, the King’s Singers offer a selection of Palestrina’s Canticum Canticorum motets, framed by four Marian antiphon settings, in Biblical Passions , also one to a part but less virile in style. Where the New Yorkers give the impression of filling a church, the King’s gentlemen pour sound more insinuatingly into one’s shell-like, almost as though sharing a chaste secret – not inappropriate for some of this deliberately ambiguous material – revealing simultaneously its devotional and madrigalian qualities.

REBECCA TAVENER Read the full review on Agora Classica

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