Christmas in mediaeval Prague
Tiburtina Ensemble, Barbora Kabátková
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This CD, a compilation of vocal music for the Feast of the Nativity as it would have been celebrated in mediaeval Prague, alternates unison plainchant, organa and tropes from the libraries of Prague Cathedral and the Benedictine convent of Prague Castle. This may sound a little bit heavy going for the general listener, but believe me: the singing by the four female voices of the Tiburtina Ensemble is so exquisite that this is an hour of sheer delight. The perfection of their blend, balance, tuning and unanimity of movement recall the American ensemble Anonymous 4, but if anything the singing here is more impressive. The sometimes wayward lines of the 12th-century Czech organa are negotiated with breathtaking ease, and there is an unerring musicality both about the ensemble and the solo singing. On various visits over the years to the beautiful city of Prague, I have been impressed by the quality of Medieval and Renaissance instrumental concerts, often in stunning settings, and it is good to hear from this atmospheric CD that the state of early vocal performance is equally or even more advanced. This is some of the most persuasive and simply beautiful singing that I have heard recently. Invidious then to pick out particular highlights, but the organum settings of readings are intriguing and the concluding four-part motet simply beguiling. Highly recommended.
D. James Ross