More Divine Than Human

More Divine Than Human

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The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral under their director Stephen Darlington, return to AVIE with their second release for the label. Recorded in the Chapel of Merton College, Oxford, it commemorates the 500th Anniversary of the coronation of King Henry VIII on June 24 1509 with music from the Eton Choirbook, one of the greatest jewels of choir music in the world.

The Eton Choirbook epitomises a style of composition which demanded extraordinary virtuosity from its performers: it is no surprise that an Italian visitor should have described the singing he heard in 1515 as ‘more divine than human’. This recording brings to life some of the most glorious music in the collection, using the original forces of men and boys.

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It’s rare for choirboys to project long lines so securely and with such authority. The choir as a whole works excellently, and the recording boasts a startling presence.

Gramophone Magazine, August 2013

… includes some of the finest treble singing I’ve heard in this repertory. Alongside favourites such as Browne’s ‘Stabat mater’ … it includes rarely heard pieces, notably Lambe’s ‘Magnificat’ and John Fawkyner’s ‘Gaude rosa sine spina’, reminiscent of Browne in its melodic inspiration. Perhaps the best interpretation is of Davy’s ‘In honore summe matris’, one of his finest works, in which the reduced sections show off some fine solo singing. The closeness of the sound recording gives it an almost eerie presence, but is also most involving.

Gramophone Mazazine, August 2013

What makes this disc entrancingly fresh is its use of boy choristers: their translucence as a choir, their colours as soloists, and their easy swing through florid passages inject lightness into the choir book’s dense compositions … Stephen Darlington masterfully paragraphs these monumental pieces through the careful pacing of his dynamics … This is a stellar recording.

BBC Music Magazine

The Eton Choirbook ranks among the most difficult music composed to be sung by children, namely the boy trebles of the countless choral foundations that dotted the British Isles in the late Middle Ages. In the last year or so, a concentrated group of recordings has appeared from some of the most renowned of those choral foundations … This latest is very impressive, and I cannot recommend it too highly. The trebles here excel, both as soloists and, just as remarkably, when several sing together on the same line … The sound recording is both close enough to capture details and atmospheric enough to flatter the ear. Dare we hope for more of this, while these young voices are still in their prime?

Gramophone Magazine, 2009

The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford … sing without once betraying the technical difficulties of these intricate musical jigsaws, instead giving natural, spacious, rich, expressive performances.

Sunday Times

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