The Choir’s latest recording, Courts of Heaven: Music from the Eton Choirbook Vol. 3, has now been released and we are delighted to say that it has already received an excellent review – please see below! The CD is available online, and from Christ Church Cathedral Shop and other music retailers.
The third recording in this excellent series from this important and spectacular manuscript has all the virtues of the previous volumes: stunningly effective singing from soloists (particularly the superb boy treble, Binath Philomin) and from the full choir, all of whom negotiate the tricky rhythms and intervals of the Eton idiom with complete confidence and musicality; insightful and precise direction by Stephen Darlington; a superbly captured acoustic which is rich in detail but also has an evocative bloom to it; and finally, performances at the correct pitch allowing the attention to fall on the fascinating inner harmonies rather than constantly being unduly drawn to the pyrotechnics of a stratospherically high treble line. We are presented with the music of John Hampton, Edmund Turges, John Fawkyner, John Browne and Robert Wylkynson, composers of outstanding imagination about whom, as the programme notes observe, we know practically nothing – I have proposed elsewhere that several may be Scottish, providing a musical link with the roughly contemporary Scottish school of ornate polyphony exemplified by Robert Carver. In a previous review I commented that these performances by a superb all-male choir are undoubtedly the nearest we will come in modern times to the sound the Eton masters had in their heads as they composed, and listening to this extraordinarily consistent account of extended and demanding pieces I am reminded that the only real difference is the larger number of smaller voices required nowadays to populate the treble line, in contrast to the fewer, more mature voice of the Renaissance treble section. These CDs are a ground-breaking achievement, and I look forward to future revelations as the choir explores further as-yet-unperformed works in the Choirbook.
D. James Ross, Early Music Review, October 2014