The Sixteen

Choir

The Sixteen

After thirty years of world-wide performance and recording, The Sixteen is recognised as one of the world’s greatest vocal ensembles. Its special reputation for performing early English polyphony, masterpieces of the Renaissance and a diversity of 20th century music is drawn from the passions of conductor and founder, Harry Christophers. Over ninety recordings reflect The Sixteen’s quality in a range of work spanning the music of five hundred years, winning many awards including Grand Prix du Disque for Handel's Messiah, numerous Schallplattenkritik, the coveted Gramophone Award for Early Music, and most recently the prestigious Classical Brit Award 2005 for 'Renaissance'.

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Macmillan: Stabat Mater

Macmillan: Stabat Mater


 

Stabat Mater (plainsong)

MacMillan:

Stabat Mater

world premiere recording


Read our exclusive interviews with James MacMillan and Harry Christophers about the project.

Includes the world premiere recording of James MacMillan's Stabat Mater.

Few living composers communicate with the emotional directness of Sir James MacMillan, and performances of his new Stabat Mater are eagerly anticipated. The Sixteen gave the world premiere of this work at a series of concerts in October 2016 as well as recording the work for their own record label, CORO. For MacMillan, 'beauty is at the heart of our Christian faith' and the Stabat Mater is sure to be profoundly shaped by his beliefs. But this is a work with deep roots and a universal message, a celebration of both tradition and radical renewal.

“his Stabat Mater is both moving and original in its word-setting and especially in its creation of atmosphere” classicalsource.com, February 2017 ****

“It’s a devastatingly powerful evocation of Mary’s agony, balancing impassioned choral writing with equally intense, occasionally violent, work for the strings of the Britten Sinfonia...Wonderfully sung; profoundly moving.” The Guardian, 12th March 2017 ****

“There is deference to the power of plainsong in the chanted opening, the timelessness of which feeds into the sublime harmonic journey of the ensuing movements. MacMillan’s unfolding of the text and its instrumental halo are masterfully judged. I defy any atheist not to be moved by such a profound musical interpretation of religious belief.” The Scotsman, 10th April 2017 *****

“…without doubt the work's impact is immeasurably heightened by the exceptional performance it receives here…Christopher's adoration of MacMillan's Stabat Mater radiates out of every moment of this compelling performance…the Britten Sinfonia have tremendously incisve rhythmic bite.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2017

“This is an amazing high emotion choral masterpiece in MacMillan's distinctive style, incredibly difficult for the singers and the string orchestra. The recording was made October 31 / November 1, 2016 in London's St. Augustine's Church, and engineers have captured the rich sounds of the venue in proper perspective…An important issue!” Classical CD Review, April 2017

“Macmillan’s visceral approach to word-setting can generate genuine and immediate emotional involvement in his listeners…Warmly recommended.” Choir & Organ, May 2017 *****

“His vivid, trenchant string writing is realised with striking clarity by the Britten Sinfonia in this recording, made just a fortnight after the same performers gave the world premiere last October in London. The Sixteen’s singing is predictably high in quality. Cries, shouts, whispers, glissandos, episodes of ululating melisma, all feature…in [MacMillan’s] quest to render musically the visceral emotional content of the Stabat Mater” BBC Music Magazine, June 2017 ****

“Even though I am sure there is much more in this Stabat Mater than I have yet discerned I am already confident that it is a masterpiece. It should be heard by anyone who values eloquent contemporary music.” MusicWeb International, 30th May 2017

“Its stark but searing beauty is brilliantly illuminated by the powerfully nuanced voices of The Sixteen and the poetically rich accompaniment of the Britten Sinfonia, by turns cosseting and excoriating.” Classical Ear, 21st June 2017 *****

GGramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - May 2017

Released or re-released in last 6 months

Coro - COR16150

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The Sixteen sing Poulenc

The Sixteen sing Poulenc


Poulenc:

Mass in G major

Un soir de neige

Litanies à la Vierge noire

Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël

Quatre motets pour un temps de pénitence

Salve Regina

Ave verum corpus


Francis Poulenc is considered one of the greatest melodists of the 20th century but it is his individual and immediately recognisable harmonic language that makes his music so distinctive. Often overlooked in his lifetime and in the years after his death, his sacred music was an expression of his more serious side and, following the death of his close friend, Pierre-Octave Ferroud, a re-awakening of his religious faith. The Sixteen’s new recording centres round the themes of conflict and atonement, reflecting both Poulenc’s intense internal struggles and the turbulence of life in France during the mid-20th century.

“[In the Mass] the fullness of the choral sound is hard to beat and the rhythmically exhilarating Gloria is the stuff of dreams. This is sumptuous recording of flawless singing and intense music making.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2017

“The loss of companion Pierre-Octave Ferroud reawakened Poulenc’s religious faith and led him to write some glorious music, touched equally with sadness and with hope. The Sixteen perfectly convey that combination in a nuanced and faithful version of motets and other pieces…” Choir & Organ, May 2017 ****

“This well recorded programme features some of the finest in performances that are idiomatic, and technically accomplished.” Classical Music, May 2017 ****

Released or re-released in last 6 months

Coro - COR16149

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Song of the Nativity

Song of the Nativity


Bullard, A:

And all the stars looked down

Chilcott:

Shepherd's Carol

Davies, Walford:

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Gardner, John:

When Christ was born of Mary free

Ireland:

The Holy Boy

Jackson, Gabriel:

The Christ-child

Lauridsen:

O magnum mysterium

MacMillan:

The Strathclyde Motets: O Radiant Dawn

McDowall:

Now may we singen, a carol for Christmas

Ord:

Adam lay ybounden

Roth, A:

Song of the Shepherds

Rutter:

There is a flower

Skempton:

Adam lay y-bounden

Todd:

My Lord Has Come

trad.:

The Saviour's Work

A Gallery Carol

Children's Song of the Nativity

Somerset Wassail

This endris night

Christmas Eve

Dutch Carol

Warlock:

Bethlehem Down


The Sixteen contrasts the dramatic intensity of music by some of today’s most admired composers with such traditional and modern carols as Boris Ord’s Adam lay ybounden and Henry Walford Davies’ version of O little town of Bethlehem. Much-loved modern classics including John Rutter’s There is a flower, Morten Lauridsen’s O magnum mysterium and James MacMillan’s O radiant dawn also appear on this beautiful album and there are many others which, in the course of time, will also become classics; every one of them by their unashamed simplicity, captures the joy and sincerity of this most wonderful of seasons. This album provides a perfect peaceful and uplifting antidote to the hectic pre-Christmas rush.

“From the gorgeously shaped performance of Morten Lauridsen’s modern classic O magnum mysterium which opens the programme, to the urgent, ardent account of James MacMillan’s O radiant dawn which closes it, The Sixteen give a masterclass in the art of unaccompanied singing, and in close emotional engagement with the pieces chosen” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2016 *****

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month

Coro - COR16146

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Edmund Rubbra: Choral Works

Edmund Rubbra: Choral Works


Rubbra:

Tenebrae Motets, Op. 72: First, Second & Third Nocturns

Missa Cantuariensis, Op. 59

Three Motets, Op. 76

Five Motets for unaccompanied choir, Op. 37


The distinctive style of Edmund Rubbra’s music is unmistakable – his love of counterpoint, his sense of tonality, and his clever working of melody make him stand out from many of his contemporaries. His writing, whilst harmonically challenging and vocally taxing, is also intensely personal and highly charged with emotion - at times mystical, at others seriously dramatic.

Though he is best-known for his orchestral works, choral music was a constant throughout his career, and a genre of particular importance to a composer of strong spiritual conviction.

In this beautiful new recording The Sixteen explores some of his little-known choral music including the extraordinary Tenebrae Nocturns and the Missa Cantuariensis with its fabulous double-choir writing.

This album also features the first recording of the Responses from the Missa Cantuariensis.

“Christophers and the Sixteen make a convincing case for a reappraisal of his choral music...Each piece is sung with the purity and sincerity we have come to expect from one of the UK’s most treasured and respected vocal ensembles.” The Observer, 11th September 2016 ****

“well-nigh flawless renderings from The Sixteen under Harry Christophers…high-class advocacy of some enormously rewarding repertoire” Classical Ear, October 2016 ****

“This is a disc which anybody remotely interested in Rubbra will want to purchase.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2016 ****

Coro - COR16144

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Helper and Protector

Helper and Protector

Italian Maestri in Poland


Bertolusi:

Timor Domini

Sancta Maria, succurre miseris

Ave verum corpus

Peccantem me quotidie

Marenzio:

Iniquos odio habui

Missa super iniquos odio habui

Jubilate deo

Pacelli:

Gaudent in caelis

Beati estis

Media nocte

Christus resurgens


The Sixteen, Eamonn Dougan

The fourth volume in this highly acclaimed series, conducted by The Sixteen’s Associate Conductor, Eamonn Dougan, explores the music of Italian composers working in the Polish court during the reign of Sigismund III Vasa. In 1594 Sigismund III set about reorganising his music ensemble and he decided to bring in Italian musicians, singularly esteemed at that time, and, in particular, musicians associated with the music chapels of Rome. Amongst them were Luca Marenzio, Asprillo Pacelli, and Vincenzo Bertolusi; their arrival heralded a new dawn for sacred music in Poland.

The centrepiece of this album is Marenzio’s exquisite Missa super Iniquos odio habui. The Kyrie and Gloria movements are known but the remaining parts of the Mass were feared lost following World War II, but were actually appropriated by the Soviets and have only been rediscovered since the fall of the Berlin Wall. This is the premiere recording of the complete Mass which is set alongside the motet Iniquos odio habui on which it is based.

Also included are Pacelli’s joyous Beati estis and Bertolusi’s sublime Ave verum corpus.

“The clarity of Dougan’s glossy choral textures allows the music’s rhythmic animation to penetrate, and pacing is carefully calibrated to balance moment-by-moment drama with a longer musical arc” Gramophone Magazine, August 2016

Coro Polish Music - COR16141

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Monteverdi: Messa a Quattro voci et salmi of 1650 Volume I

Monteverdi: Messa a Quattro voci et salmi of 1650 Volume I


Cavalli:

Magnificat

Monteverdi:

Dixit [Dominus] Primo

Confitebor tibi Domine, SV194

Lauda Jerusalem a 3, SV202

Nisi Dominus I à 3 voci & duoi violini

Laudate pueri Primo à 5 concertato

Laetaniae della Beata Vergine a 6 voci

Beatus vir a 7, SV195


Monteverdi’s sacred vocal compositions introduced the expression of powerful and personal emotions to the world of church music. Whilst it took him a number of years to find fulfilment in his work, Monteverdi was a revered composer within his lifetime and his music is regarded as revolutionary, marking the change from the Renaissance style to that of the Baroque. This album comprises some of the finest works from Monteverdi’s years as director of music at St Mark’s in Venice, published posthumously in 1650 as the Messa a quattro voci et salmi.

“The Sixteen’s performances have the group’s usual unfussy directness; the sound has no churchy over-resonance about it, either, so that the intricacies of the writing are always perfectly clear.” The Guardian, 24th March 2016 ***

“Ideal consort singing.” Sunday Times, 3rd April 2016

“The Sixteen’s complete recording of the Selva morale collection has been praised in these pages, and the qualities of ensemble are certainly worth noting here also. They are heard to best effect in the more richly scored pieces: the five-voice Laetatus sum and Laudate pueri, for example.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2016

Coro - COR16142

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The Deer’s Cry: The Sixteen sing Pärt, Byrd & Tallis

The Deer’s Cry: The Sixteen sing Pärt, Byrd & Tallis


 

Miserere nostri

Tallis / Byrd

Byrd:

Diliges Dominum

Christe qui Lux

Miserere mihi, Domini

Tribue, Domine

Emendemus in melius

O Lux beata Trinitas

Ad Dominum cum tribularer

Laetentur coeli

Pärt:

The Deer's Cry

Nunc dimittis

The Woman With The Alabaster Box

Tallis:

When Jesus went into Simon the Pharisee's house


Whilst coming from very different eras, William Byrd and Arvo Pärt are both considered masters of sacred music despite having faced considerable persecution for their work. This programme presents six of William Byrd’s works from the Cantiones Sacrae including the monumental Tribue, Domine, and the mighty eight-voice motet Ad Dominum cum tribularer. The three works by Arvo Pärt speak in his unmistakable voice, with its unique blend of ancient and modern, and include his mesmerising Nunc dimittis which is crafted in his bell-like ‘tinitinnabuli’ style.

“It’s fascinating to compare Tallis and Pärt’s different but complementary treatments of the Woman with the Alabaster Box parable. Music and singing of hypnotic beauty.” Sunday Times, 31st January 2016

“The Sixteen perform music of composers born four centuries apart, both persecuted for their religious faith...In each case their choral writing has a simplicity and intensity, perfectly suited to the blended sound of the Sixteen.” The Guardian, 31st January 2016

“Those favouring sonic beauty above all else will find 'The Deer's Cry' an essential addition. Larger forces and fuller voices give The Sixteen a textural depth Stile Antico and The Tallis Scholars neither seek nor attain, thickening the sound without obscuring the architectural workings of these complex pieces of polyphony...it's hard to wish greater restraint of such glorious singing.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2016

“[The Deer's Cry] is a deceptively easy-looking piece on the page, but keeping its halting, minimalist ground-rhythm pulsing meaningfully, and building the slow-burn crescendo over several minutes requires advanced levels of technical proficiency. That, of course, is what The Sixteen majors in, and its performance combines a scrupulous accuracy with a pregnant sense of ritual and contemplative mystery” BBC Music Magazine, April 2016 ****

Presto Discs of 2016

Finalist

Coro - COR16140

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Poetry in Music

Poetry in Music


Britten:

Hymn to St Cecilia, Op. 27

East, M:

When David Heard that Absalom was Slain

Gurney:

Since I believe in God the Father

Harris, W:

Faire is the Heaven

Bring us, O Lord God

Howells:

Take him, earth, for cherishing

MacMillan:

The Gallant Weaver

Pearsall:

Lay a garland

Ramsey, R:

When David heard

Rubbra:

Eternitie

Rubinstein, B:

There is a spirit

Tippett:

Dance, Clarion Air

Tomkins:

When David Heard

Weelkes:

When David Heard


Ruth Provost, Kirsty Hopkins, David Clegg, Jeremy Budd, Ben Davies, Julie Cooper, Edward McMullan, Mark Dobell

The Sixteen, Harry Christophers

Does music add substance to words or is music inspired by them? Songs of departure and farewell are deeply rooted in the great tradition of British choral music, nourished by ancient myths of testing journeys, wayside transformations and homecomings. The transcendent nature of music and the power of poetry to challenge and alter perceptions of reality – harnessed by English composers over many centuries – flow through a programme that invites contemplation of life and death, of love and loss, creation and eternity. In a journey covering six centuries of musical history, The Sixteen performs a cappella anthems with powerful texts by writers as varied as Edmund Spenser, Christopher Fry and W.H. Auden.

“It is clear that this is something really special. That specialness comes not just from the fact that The Sixteen elevate everything they perform through their opulent musicality and supreme clarity of tone, but from Harry Christophers’s intuitive grasp of the marriage of music and words.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2015

“the British composers represented here, covering five centuries, all chose distinguished texts and responded with extraordinary music...The performances are beautiful and brilliant.” New York Times, 25th November 2015

GGramophone Awards 2016

Shortlisted - Choral

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - November 2015

Coro - COR16134

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Palestrina Volume 6

Palestrina Volume 6


Palestrina:

Missa L'Homme Armé 5vv

Surge amica mea, speciosa mea (from Canticum canticorum)

Dilectus meus mihi

Peccantem me quotidie

Surgam et circuibo civitatem

Parce mihi, Domine

Si ambulavero in medio tribulationis

Tribulationes civitatum

Super flumina Babylonis

Tribularer si nescirem

plus:

SONG OF SONGS: nos. 16, 17 & 18


The Sixteen continues its acclaimed series of discs exploring the work of Italian Renaissance master, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. An enormous body of sacred works, including over 100 Masses, rightly earned Palestrina the title of ‘the prince and father of music’ and ‘the saviour of church music’. His legacy has impacted sacred music worldwide for over 400 years and composers throughout the centuries have studied and learned from his gift of writing exquisite polyphony.

Central to this sixth disc is Palestrina’s unjustly neglected 5-voice L’Homme armé Mass. Written before 1570, it is no mere technical showpiece, but contains music of the highest quality. It is accompanied on this disc by a group of penitential and devotional motets and Offertories on well known texts such as Parce mihi Domine, Si ambulavero in medio tribulationis, Tribulationes civitatem, De profundis, and Super flumina Babylonis, eliciting from Palestrina his best and most moving music. Three further Song of Songs motets in the Sixteen’s ongoing complete survey complete the CD.

“This sort of mood suits The Sixteen's brightly focused choral sound, and Harry Christophers's direction is unobtrusive but telling: the terraced approach to the final 'Kyrie' is a case in point, and the flowering into six voices in the concluding 'Agnus Dei' is particularly lovely.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2015

“Christophers artfully moulds and heightens the contours of the polyphonic lines, which ebb and flow in a liquid tapesty of sound...The Sixteen's rich, buttery sound is particularly effective for the sensual Song of Songs settings, which brim with Counter-Reformation fervour.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2015 *****

Coro Sixteen Palestrina - COR16133

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Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki

Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki


Gorczycki:

Conductus funebris

Litaniae de Providentia Divina

Missa Rorate caeli

In virtute tua

O rex gloriae

Illuxit sol

Sepulto Domino


The Sixteen, Eamonn Dougan

The third disc in The Sixteen’s acclaimed series of Polish music, conducted by Associate Conductor, Eamonn Dougan, explores the work of Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki (1665–1734). Regarded as the outstanding Polish composer of the high baroque, Gorczycki studied in Prague and Vienna in his early years and returned to Kraków in 1690 where he took holy orders. He was appointed Magister capellae at Wawel Cathedral in 1698, a position he held until his death. Like his predecessor Bartłomiej Pękiel (COR16110), Gorczycki wrote in both stile antico and stile moderno; the works featured in this recording display his skill in both genres. The Missa Rorate shows his mastery of counterpoint and sensitivity to word-setting, as does Illuxit Sol in which Gorczycki revels in the rhetoric of the text, painting it with lush five-part string writing; Conductus Funebris, a four-movement work setting text from the Burial Service, marries his contrapuntal skills with a more emphatic, declamatory style, while in the Litania de Providentia Divinae, Gorczycki unleashes the full power of his invention as he paints the virtues of "Divine Providence" with a glowing palate of colours.

“On this latest disc, The Sixteen and their Associate Conductor Eamonn Dougan straddle eras, keeping one foot in the composer's unaccompanied prima pratica vocal works (strongly influenced by Palestrina) and one in his seconda pratica vocal-instrumental works with their Monteverdi-influenced sonic drama...This is Italian music with just the faintest Polish accent.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2015

“It’s a curious mix. Sometimes, as in the a cappella Missa Rorate caeli (he sets both Ordinary and Proper texts), he writes in a late Renaissance manner; elsewhere, his style is more up to date, not unlike Carissimi. These performances are pristine, carefully blended and appositely devout in flavour.” Sunday Times, 19th April 2015

Coro Polish Music - COR16130

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