Stile Antico's 2015 release on Harmonia Mundi, A Wondrous Mystery, is a sublime collection of Renaissance choral music for Christmas, presented in a pleasant mix of familiar German carols and a mass, with tracks interspersed for the sake of variety. This makes sense in consideration of the group's broad audience, which may know such popular hymns as Michael Praetorius' Ein Kind geborn in Bethlehem and Es ist ein Ros entsprungen, or Johannes Eccard's Übers Gebirg Maria geht and Vom Himmel hoch, yet be somewhat at a loss with the motet and Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis by Jacobus Clemens non Papa, a composer beloved by early music specialists but not exactly a household name for lay listeners. However, the a cappella performances are consistently beautiful and soothing throughout, and the quietly joyous mood of the music fits the album's title perfectly. The 12-voice choir's blend is well-balanced and transparent, and the ambience of All Hallow's Church, Gospel Oak, London gives an ideal resonance for the group's small size and close miking.
This is a good selection of motets because it hardly duplicates the last two such discs. On Orlando Consort’s collection of Josquin’s motets ( Fanfare 34:1), only Read more is heard, and none of them are on David Skinner’s more varied disc (33:1). It follows another Josquin disc by Cordes (35:6), though it was recorded a year later, a fine offering that unfortunately had to compete with an excellent recording of a Mass in Peter Phillips’s ongoing series.
This final LOiseau-Lyre set presents some of the most significant Medieval & Renaissance albums recorded by one of the most authoritative Early Music labels.
The vihuela is not a viol, it is a sort of lute. Vihuela and lute coexisted in Spain but the composers wrote only for the former. The works played in this recording were mainly published between 1535 and 1554; Daza's book (1576) and a collection of other authors (1593) mark the end of the era of the vihuela. Then the instrument lent its shape to the guitar, as you can infer from the cover of the CD.