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From Spain to Eternity - The Sacred Polyphony of El Greco's Toledo
In 2011 DG released a spectacular 10-CD anthology on Archiv Produktion with Ensemble Plus Ultra (EPU), “the finest British early music singers” (Early Music Today), commemorating the 400th anniversary of Tomas de Victoria’s death. This box sold about 6.100 units worldwide and won a Gramophone award.
Now the award winning ensemble is back with a major recording project to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of El Greco in 2014 – composers including Cristobal de Morales, Alonso Lobo and Alonso de Tejeda were prolific in Toledo during the 37 years El Greco lived and worked there, and much of this music certainly inspired his painting.
Morales is THE Spanish composer of the Renaissance. Morales – Kapellmeister at the cathedral in Toledo, but also in Italian cities – is generally considered to be the most influential Spanish composer before Victoria. Almost all of his music is sacred, and all of it is vocal.
Pieces by Lobo and Tejeda make a wonderful conclusion to the disc – all in all a varied program, and encompassing three composers from Toledo during the time of El Greco.
“It's a nicely conceived sequence, even if the connections with El Greco sometimes seem a bit contrived, and is performed by the seven members of Ensemble Plus Ultra with great care and refinement, though sometimes with a bit too much English reserve for my taste.” The Guardian, 24th July 2014 ***
“Morales, in particular, is a composer whose music is always worth hearing...here he brings out the best in Plus Ultra.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2014
“The effect is still opulent: texts are painted witha vivid dynamic range and (dare I say it?) the occasional expressive vibrato...The results - intimate yet intense - are a fitting reflection of Counter-Reformation ethos, epitomised in the turbulent works of El Greco.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2014 *****
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O Virgo Benedicta
Music of Marian Devotion from Spain’s Century of Gold
The Marian Consort: Gwendolen Martin, Emma Walshe (sopranos), Nicholas Scott (tenor), Steffan Jones (baritone), Christopher Borrett (bass) & Rory McCleery (countertenor/director)
For their debut recording, the six-strong Marian Consort explores music from late 16th- and early 17th-century Spain. This fascinating programme celebrates the rich compositional fruits of the Siglo de Oro’s intensely competitive musical culture. These luminary works, all dedicated to the Virgin Mary, demand performances of great intelligence and vocal commitment. The youthful Marians respond absolutely, bringing hushed intimacy and bristling excitement to some of the most gorgeously searing lines in the history of European polyphony.
“The Oxford-based mixed choir makes a bold, bright sound with strong individual voices.” Classic FM Magazine, March 2011 ***
“Formed by countertenor Rory McCleery, the Oxford-based Marian Consort makes its recording debut with a disc devoted, appropriately enough given its name, to works dedicated to the Virgin Mary...Fluent performances.” The Guardian, 23rd December 2010 ***
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