Below is some information about the group Stile Antico. Have you heard of them? Absolutely stunning! I never realized how much I could love this type of music by some well know composers.
If you have a similar type please let me know and I will check it out. I just stumbled upon this by accident. How could I have missed this and what else is out there like it? Other groups?
Please don't hesitate to share your knowledge and help educate me - really. I am sure there are some experts here, and thanks for sharing.
Some composers are...
Stile Antico is an ensemble of young British singers, now established as one of the most original and exciting new voices in its field. Prizewinners at the 2005 Early Music Network International Young Artists’ Competition, the group is much in demand in concert and records exclusively for Harmonia Mundi. Their debut disc Music for Compline drew superlative reviews, winning the Diapason d’Or de l'année, the Choc du Monde de la Musique, and attracting a nomination for the 50th GRAMMY awards. Their second release Heavenly Harmonies has received the Preis der deustchen Schallplattenkritik and the Diapason d’Or.
Working without a conductor, the members of Stile Antico rehearse and perform as chamber musicians, each contributing artistically to the musical result. Their repertoire ranges from the glorious legacy of the English Tudor composers to the works of the Flemish and Spanish schools and the music of the early Baroque. They are passionate about the need to communicate with their audiences, combining thoughtful programming with direct, expressive performances. They are also committed to developing their educational work, for which they have received generous funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Stile Antico has appeared throughout the UK, including at the York, City of London and Stour festivals; the group has broadcast several times on BBC Radio 3, and regularly leads courses at the Dartington International Summer School. In 2007 they toured Europe with Sting as part of his Dowland lute song project, Songs from the Labyrinth, a collaboration repeated to great acclaim in the Far East during December 2008. Notable appearances in the current season include debuts at the Bruges, Utrecht and Boston Early Music Festivals, the world premiere of a new work by John McCabe at the Three Choirs Festival, and concerts in France, Spain and Lebanon. The group’s third disc, Song of Songs, will be released in April 2009.
19.6.09 Classic FM Magazine reviews Song of Songs
This stunning recording of Biblical love poetry is the third disc from the undirected 12 young British singers of Stile Antico - one of our Top Five Choral Groups. The music is exclusively 16th century and the texts are all by King Solomon. the singers enter Palestrina's Nigra sum ('I am black) in slow caressing waves until their sound becomes a lover's smothering embrace. The soprano's sinuous plainchant on the same words is without blemish. There is no hurry in the ensemble's tonguing of Palestrina's Osculetur me ('Kiss me'), the consonants heard as vivid word-painting, and their rising scales in Victoria's Vidi speciosam ('I saw beauty') are as heady, erotic odours. (Editor's Choice, RJ)
15.6.09 Boston Musical Intelligencer reviews Stile Antico's US debut in Boston
The 1500s were a period of sea-changes in Western music: the gradual shift from modality to tonality, the rise of instruments as tools for expression independent from voices, and the dawn of music publication were only some of the events that made this period so dramatic. Composers were also engaged in daring new experiments in secular music, such as the exploration of extreme word-painting in madrigals and the eventual creation of what would come to be known as opera. Given this atmosphere of novelty and transition, the sacred music of the time can, upon first hearing, sound staid and cold, the musical equivalent of luminous yet motionless stained-glass painting.
Yet, as the British vocal ensemble Stile Antico recently demonstrated, there are worlds of expression to be found in this beautifully crafted church music. Their US debut concert, given as part of the BEMF on June 12th in Emmanuel Church, presented many settings by various 16th-century composers of texts taken from the Song of Songs. The title of their program included the term “sensuous polyphony”; and while the words of the biblical text clearly reflect that title, what made this concert so remarkable and enjoyable was that the ensemble demonstrated the sonic sensuousness that is inherent in the music itself.
Anyone who explores recordings and performances of sacred music from the 1500s will soon discover that some vocal ensembles are perfectly content to simply sing the words and the notes, honing a crystalline sound, but allowing the design of the works themselves to be the main device of musical expression. There may be something to be said for that: these works contain compelling melodies, and involve highly complex, varied polyphony and contrapuntal sophistication.
But Stile Antico’s approach to those inherent characteristics was to shine the light of emotive interpretation on them. What emerged was a performance of tapestry-like beauty. Through the use of swelling dynamics and varied articulation, discreet acts of word-painting - far more subdued than what can be heard in the secular music of the time - were brought to the fore. Moreover, the individual personalities of each composer and his approach to the texts were not only magnified, but also made sensually evocative. The tripping counterpoint and dense imitative textures favored by Clemens non Papa became delicious devices, with a somewhat different flavor from the more mild homophony and parallelisms prominent in the pieces by Francisco Guerreo; the darker hues and striking harmonies of Nicolas Gombert and Jean Lhéritier - holdovers from practices of the previous century - were vividly colored; and the seamless cadences that make the music of Giovanni Palestrina and Tomás Luis de Victoria so vast were delivered with a tactile smoothness. Even the subtle differences in textures between these last two composers, whose music can sound so similar to one another’s, were illuminated: Palestrina’s smoothness shone with white light, while Victoria’s displayed a more colorful spectrum.
All the singers in the ensemble seemed to revel in these lush musical gestures. Set up in mixed formation (rather than by section), they sang to each other with as much joy and sensitivity as they did to the audience. As for the audience itself, the sighs and gasps that followed nearly every piece showed that all the listeners were viscerally taken by the performance, as well as the richness of the music itself. (Tom Schnauber)
15.6.09 Boston Globe reviews Stile Antico's US debut in Boston
First up was Stile Antico, a British vocal ensemble making its keenly anticipated US debut with a program devoted to settings of the biblical Song of Songs. Historically the lovers' yearning in this highly sensual text was often seen as a metaphor for the relationship between God and his people, or between Christ and his church, and apparently the entire book was like catnip for the polyphonists of the 16th century. This program included settings or adaptations by Palestrina, Lassus, Gombert, and Victoria as well as selections by less familiar composers such as Sebastian de Vivanco and Jean Lheritier.
The group's impeccably blended sound, the lightness and transparency of its ensemble work, and its warmly expressive approach to this repertoire were all notable from the outset. The 13 singers perform without a conductor but nonetheless manage to shape their lines with exceeding suppleness and grace. Polychoral settings by Vivanco and Francisco Guerrero were a particular pleasure, as was Victoria's elaborate motet "Vadam, et circuibo." (Jeremy Eichler)
14.6.09 New York Times reviews Stile Antico's US debut in Boston
Magic was in no short supply. Friday evening at Emmanuel Church the British a cappella ensemble Stile Antico made its American debut with a program of Renaissance settings of the Song of Songs, including a striking antiphonal setting of “Veni Dilecte Mi” by Sebastián de Vivanco and seamlessly lush works by Palestrina, Lassus and Victoria. The 13 singers produce a beautifully balanced sound and are likely to become worthy competitors for the Tallis Scholars. (Allan Kozinn)
3.5.09 The Independent reviews Song of Songs
The Song Of Songs, King Solomon's poetic meditation on love, has become choral music's soul equivalent, poised on the cusp of sacred and secular interpretations of the nature of Solomon's desire. And despite the celibate church's long dominance in this matter, it remains hard to regard lascivious lines like "Your lips drip nectar; honey and milk are under your tongue" as allegories of God's sacred inclinations. Sumptuously delivered by the peerless Stile Antico, the verses are set to melodies by the likes of Palestrina, Gombert and Guerrero. The standout piece is Tómas Luis De Victoria's epic motet "Vadam et circuibo", a masterpiece of polychoral ingenuity. (Andy Gill)
3.5.09 Philadelphia Inquirer enjoys Song of Songs
In only a few years, the 14-member British vocal group Stile Antico has created a niche in the world of Renaissance-era specialists with its flawless, low-vibrato blends and an emotional and intellectual engagement that makes a considerable, if subtle, difference in the personality of the performances. In the group's first disc to venture outside English polyphony, the exterior luster remains, but now fueled by a sense of the music's inner purpose, often comparing the treatment of the same borderline-erotic secular texts by different great 16th-century composers. The program is also intelligently paced among polyphonic songs, chants and music of contrasting nationality and style. Also lovely is the way the group attenuates any given final chord a few nanoseconds, just to let you enjoy the sound longer. (David Patrick Stearns)
3.5.09 The Observer praises Song of Songs
This ensemble, its members still in their 20s and just a dozen beautifully blended voices singing a cappella, has emerged as one of the best and freshest early music choirs around. Their third CD is a selection of motet and plainchant settings from the Song of Songs, the startling Old Testament collection of erotic love poems ascribed to King Solomon. Less familiar composers - Lhéritier, Francisco Guerrero, Vivanco - are included alongside Lassus, Gombert and Victoria. Palestrina's flowing lines in "Nigra sum" ("I am black but beautiful") and "Osculetur me" ("Let him kiss me") blur the boundaries of sacred and profane to sumptuous effect. (Fiona Maddocks)
1.5.09 San Francisco Chronicle praises Song of Songs
Renaissance composers were quick to latch onto the Song of Songs as source material, and for perfectly good reasons. The book's ardent love poetry and lush eroticism offer plenty of opportunity for sensuality - but because the texts are biblical, they come with the respectable imprimatur of the church. It's a win-win proposition, and this gorgeous assemblage of settings by some of the leading figures of 16th century polyphony demonstrates why. In suave, finely tuned performances by the young British ensemble Stile Antico, the music is at once stately and inviting, devotional and, well, sexy. The balance between those poles varies with the composer, from the intricate but impeccably chaste settings of Palestrina to the brighter and earthier music of Gombert and Lassus. At the far end (the high end, for some of us) is the voluptuous, extravagantly beautiful work of Spaniard Tómas Luis de Victoria, which is everything that love music can and should be. (Joshua Kosman)
28.4.09 Classics Today awards Song of Songs a maximum 10/10
After hearing Jean Lhéritier's magnificent and deeply affecting setting of Nigra sum you might understandably feel cleansed, blessed, and exonerated from all misdeeds you've ever committed, its effect is so spiritually moving and textually illuminating. And we should be grateful that the 12 (or so) singers that make up the remarkable young British vocal ensemble Stile Antico are the polished and stylish vehicle for transmitting this beauty and truth to our ears, and they do this consistently throughout a program that will intrigue and entice all Renaissance choral music fans. The theme is the Song of Songs, which is not exactly an original idea, but it doesn't matter: the music itself carries the day, and besides, most of this repertoire is not so commonly heard.
Lhéritier is one of those undeservingly lesser-known compositional voices (although happily the Nigra sum recorded here can be found online in the Choral Public Domain Library, minus the abundant, juicy cross-relations Stile Antico provides in its performance!). His style will remind experienced listeners of Gombert (who was a close contemporary and whose marvelous Quam pulchra es is included), from its endlessly flowing, cadence-averse polyphony and heart-penetrating melodic themes right down to the open-fifth ending.
The program intersperses the primary choral works with pertinent plainchant settings of Song of Songs texts--a sensible idea both for variety and for calling attention to the relationship between formal church liturgy and composers' more elaborate (sometimes more "worldly") interpretations of these popular passages. The plainchants, each lasting less than a minute, also serve as a nice contrast to the longer motets, the most impressive of which must be Victoria's huge (10-plus-minute) Vadam et circuibo, recorded many times by others but never better than here. You get a good feeling listening to this recording: good energy, good sound, good music, good sense of style and of the music's underlying emotional and spiritual context. What more is there to say, except "Happy listening!" (David Vernier)
May 2009 BBC Music Magazine on Song of Songs *****
Song of Songs is the most erotically charged book in the Bible, and these motets and plainsongs from the from the Renaissance all draw upon its lascivious verses. Moreover, the superb singers of Stile Antico are up to the challenge of presenting all the required moods from pious restraint (Palestrina thought that all that sex was really about God's love for the church) to melting abandon (listen to 'tibi dabo ubera mea' - from Gombert's Quam pulchra es). Moreover, although some of these works are famously great (Victoria's Vadam et circuibo, and Ego flos by Clemens non papa), Hortus conclusus by the obscure Rodrigo de Ceballos is right up there, and so is the lithe and supple plainsong Alleluia Tota pulchra es, brilliant sung by women's voices. The sound on this recording is excellent and so is the tuning... a magnificent display of the very best kind of polyphonic music. (Anthony Pryer)
3.3.09 L'orient du jour at the al-Bustan Festival, Lebanon
In the little church of St Norah at Smar Jbeil, built in the Crusader era, with walls lit in blue and white chalk, twelve young English men and women... carried the audience to a place outside time... Polyphonic or monodic, Stile Antico's sacred vocal music is intense, dramatic, fervent: simply sublime. It translates the passion of these young singers... Without a conductor, this group, which loves to work together, offered to a audience lightly chilled by the cold, music which warmed the heart. (Colette Khalaf)
18.11.08 Musical Criticism at the Greenwich Early Music Festival
This group of young British singers have achieved much already at this early stage in their career... and the hype that currently surrounds Stile Antico is not an exaggeration of their talents.
The evening began with an effective and atmospheric motet from Clemens non Papa. Their mellifluous vocal blend was aided by the favourable acoustics of the opulently-decorated chapel. One of the group's key strengths is their ability to communicate. As a conductorless ensemble, they are forced to maintain frequent eye contact. In turn there is no barrier between them and the audience, facilitating their constant and interaction. Stile Antico's rich timbre is further enhanced by the variety they add at every stage. Sensitive and intelligently-gauged dynamic changes are matched with well-synchronised breaths...
The group, keenly aware of the potential for the similarity of this programme's material to become a little repetitive, worked wisely throughout to add variety with changes in the vocal arrangement for each motet, some for lower voices only, for example, and the inclusion of Guerrero's double choir motet, Ego Flos Campi. Geographical exploitation of the chapel's acoustics also provided added interest, as the plainchant ‘Nigra Sum' was performed by the sopranos from the back. The second half began innovatively with the entire group singing Ceballos's Hortus Conclusus from the same position. This was particularly effective, as hearing sacred music like this in a chapel environment emulated the feel of a religious service, helping the audience to visualise more clearly the spiritual purpose and intention of these motets. It forced the audience to concentrate not on the performers but solely on the music and the text – often a refreshing experience in a concert. The nominated animateur of the group created a marvellously jovial and informal atmosphere, with a friendly introduction and informative insights into the various works and composers featured throughout... The group's stage presence, vocal quality and tightness of ensemble is impressive, especially considering the singers' tender years. (Claudine Nightingale)