Blue Heron, Scott Metcalfe
Hunt, Mason, Sturmy, anonymous & Sarum plainchant
With this CD, Blue Heron and Scott Metcalfe reach the end of a ground-breaking collaboration with leading musicologist Nick Sandon recording ‘lost’ masterpieces from the Peterhouse Partbooks. As Professor Sandon has restored this unique musical treasury, notably recomposing the missing tenor parts, and published the music with Antico Edition, Blue Heron have recorded some of the finest works in performances which have consistently impressed me with their vibrant sound, poise, energy and musicality. In doing so, this highly important project, one of the most important early choral projects of our time, has unearthed a series of masterly composers hitherto virtually unknown. So it is in this latest volume with Hugh Sturmy, Robert Hunt, John Mason and perhaps most tantalizing of all the unnamed composer of the mysterious Missa sine nomine, which compounds its mystery by being based on a chant also not satisfactorily identified. Sharing some musical features with the earlier Eton Choirbook, the music of the Peterhouse Partbooks are of a similarly superlative standard, with a consistent richness and inventiveness unmatched anywhere else in the English choral tradition. The spotlighting of the breathtakingly beautiful music of Nicholas Ludford from this source has proved to be by no means an isolated flash in the pan, while the highly individual and superbly consistent motets recorded here are, if anything, capped by the strikingly original anonymous Mass with its string of musical surprises. Such is the authority of Scott Metcalfe and his singers with this repertoire that they negotiate even the most daringly challenging and unexpected passages with utter confidence, and, as previously, with a delicious blend of expressiveness and seemingly inexorable forward momentum. We should be very grateful both to Professor Sandon and this superb group of Amercan singers and their director, as well as the project’s far-sighted sponsors, for opening this unique window on one of the finest treasures of Renaissance English choral music. I am sure all concerned have other important work to be getting on with, but I for one would be thrilled to hear that the Peterhouse Project had been extended, even if only for one more CD – meanwhile, rush out and invest in the five that are already available!
D. James Ross