From music spanning the 15th century (Josquin, Mouton) to the present (Adès, Taverner), Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort pick a bouquet of choral music composed in homage to the Virgin Mary that enchants and cleanses the ear
Not only will aficionados of early music flip for this CD - the austerity of early music appeals greatly to fans of contemporary music. Early music’s purity marries perfectly to contemporary music’s preference to downplay overt emotionalism. All a cappella, A Spotless Rose, recorded in the acoustically perfect and sacred setting of Lady Chapel of England’s Ely Cathedral, vibrates listeners up into the loftiest realms of the soul
“Time and again in this profoundly sentient collection of Marian compositions the Gabrieli Consort effectively bypass the whole self-orientated notion of 'performance', drawing the listener into what, in many of these pieces, is essentially a process of prayer through music. Not all is meditatively reverential, however... James MacMillan's superbly dramatic Seinte Mari Moder Milde is in places fiercely, burningly imprecatory in its impact. It's magnificently sung here by the Gabrieli Consort, whom Paul McCreesh directs with passion and dedication...” BBC Music Magazine, January 2009 *****
“Marian worship reaches giddy heights of bliss in this gloriously sung survey. There can be nothing but praise for the breathtaking assurance and responsiveness of McCreesh's singers throughout… Emanating from the magically apt surroundings of Ely Cathedral's Lady Chapel, the sound is as atmospheric and voluptuous as can be imagined...” Gramophone Magazine, March 2009
“Sung throughout with sensitivity to style, this themed programme reveals the reverence and the rapture the Virgin Mary has inspired in music over the centuries.” The Telegraph, 23rd February 2009
“Two years ago Paul McCreesh and his choir released a beautifully conceived album on the theme of pilgrimage, interleaving Tudor polyphony with 20th-century British a cappella settings. Now he and the Gabrieli Consort have attempted the same thing using music composed in honour of the Virgin Mary, though this time they have cast their historical net far wider. As before, Renaissance masterpieces provide the spine. But this time a range of traditions is represented; there is an Ave Maria by Josquin, and a motet by his contemporary Jean Mouton, as well as Palestrina's monumental Stabat Mater and some anonymous pieces.
The modern settings of Marian texts are even more disparate. John Tavener and Giles Swayne rub shoulders with Herbert Howells and Thomas Adès, and the disc ends with James MacMillan, Grieg, Bax and Gorecki. Choral forces vary from eight singers to over 30, and the recorded sound from Ely Cathedral is consistently glorious; but the musical mixture seems just a bit too eclectic.” The Guardian, 20th February 2009 ***
“'My intention was to create a collection of private meditations highlighting the key events of Mary's life,' writes Paul McCreesh, 'Like the Book ofHours, it would consist of works intended for metaphysical reflection: for revealing and and commenting on the ineffable.' It's a tremendously rewarding sequence, some 13 items in all spanning no fewer than 600 years, and so cannily programmed that temporal and stylistic boundaries shift and sometimes evaporate altogether: prepare to marvel at the way Josquin's Ave Maria,Virgo serena follows on so naturally from Sir John Tavener's ravishing A Hymn to the Mother of God.
Tavener is one of five living figures represented, the contributions by Giles Swayne, Thomas Adès and James MacMillan adding a not unwelcome element of astringency to the mix and contrasting boldly with the transcendent diatonic radiance of Górecki's Totus tuus.
There can be nothing but praise for the breathtaking assurance and responsiveness of McCreesh's singers throughout.
Emanating from the magically apt surroundings of Ely Cathedral's Lady Chapel, the sound is as atmospheric and voluptuous as can be imagined, though the formidable resonance means that the words are not always ideally clear. But that's about the only grumble, for this is indeed a glorious CD.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010