Thursday 19 July 2007

Striggio Prom

As predicted half the choristers in London were in the audience for Tuesday's Late Night Prom when the Tallis Scholars and the BBC Singers performed Striggio's 40-part motet, Tallis's 40-part motet and the newly discovered Striggio Mass.

The concert opened with the Striggio motet which sounded, frankly, rather soggy. I listened again on the BBC web-site and things sounded a lot better. Though the Albert Hall sounds a good idea for this type of music I'm sure that a smaller venue would be better. Still, it was good to hear the piece. Its less polyphonic than the Tallis, more polychoral in the Venetian manner.

The performers realised the cool-beauty of the Tallis though it was not as moving as some performances that I've heard. And rather oddly, occasional voices tended to stand out in a way that was not quite desirable. They sang the piece in the usual low pitch. Inevitable given the balance of forces for the other pieces, but frankly I prefer the Tallis sung high.

The best performance in the first half was Lassus's motet and magnificat, both for two 5-part choirs. The results show Lassus's mastery of the form and his confidently handling of many parts. This worked stunningly well in the Albert Hall with a clarity not possessed by the other pieces.

The Striggio mass is written for 4 basic choirs, with parts ranging from 18 to 40 part. Then for the final Agnus Dei the singers are joined by 20 more to create a 60 part texture. As with the motet the textures were mainly poly-choral chori spezzati type. The results seem to have more clarity than the Striggio motet and the mass is undoubtedly beautiful and impressive. The final Agnus Dei created a simple waterfall of sound. I'd love to hear it in a more sympathetic acoustic or perhaps somewhere were the singers could be placed in the round.

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