Stile Antico, Music for Compline
Music by John Sheppard, William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, others
harmonia mundi 807419
There is music—an Ives song, a Gesualdo madrigal, a late Beethoven quartet—that seems to have been drop-kicked through a time warp, that leaves you muttering, “Now where did that come from?” Stile Antico may have you muttering again. The works these 16 voices sing, which spring from a Renaissance England in the grasp of now Catholic, now Protestant monarchs, are a wafting of delicate counterpoint, time-stopping repose, and harmonic surprise.
Listen to some of the mind-bending paths John Sheppard takes through settings of “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit,” a traditional text for Compline, the final monastic hour of the day. Notes clash, then snuggle into phrases, and you’ll wonder how Bartók slipped into the court of Edward VI. The beyond-modern flexibility of Thomas Tallis and the mystic stillness of William Byrd may leave you questioning where this ineffably beautiful music came from. But you’ll want to be there.