In Sorrow’s Footsteps

The Marian Consort, Rory McCleery
63:19
Delphian DCD34215
Music by Allegri, Palestrina, [Jackson & MacMillan]

This CD mixes modern and Renaissance music, which shares a melancholy mood. At the centre stands the ubiquitous Allegri Miserere, a work presented in the now fairly thoroughly discredited early 20th-century version. The programme notes rather disingenuously side-step the controversy by asserting that any version of the Allegri is simply one improvisation chosen over another – mmm. The performance, with the semi-chorus hidden somewhere in the bowels of Merton College chapel, is pleasant enough, although as both choirs are singing one to a part, the contrast between the two sections is not as marked as usual. The rest of the ‘early’ music is by Palestrina : his Super flumina Babylonis, Stabat Mater  and Ave Maria. The Marian Consort’s singing is never less than polished and beautifully crafted, but the choice of ‘early’ repertoire is entirely conventional bordering on the bland, and is clearly aimed at the easy-listening end of the market. Think of the less familiar but deeply affecting Renaissance music the group could have sung to illustrate Sorrow’s Footsteps. James Macmillan’s setting of the Miserere  makes a nice foil for the Allegri, while the opening account of Gabriel Jackson’s declamatory Stabat Mater  was enough to make this Renaissance-attuned reviewer spill his coffee. A pity the rest of the CD wasn’t more startling. And how did no-one at Delphian notice the typo on the actual CD? – ‘Sorrow’s Footseps’ sounds like an alarming form of foot fungus…

D. James Ross

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