It is an eclectic mix, and all the better for it. Drawn from across the ages of great choral music, early works by Victoria, Palestrina and de Lassus are represented by Ascendens Christus in altum, Hodie Christus natus est, and Vindentes stellam Magi, respectively.
More contemporary composers represented are Peter Phillips (Surgens Jesus) and Arvo Pärt. The latter’s Magnificat Antiphons is a glorious work. John Tavener’s setting of Away in a Manger is a far cry from the pious saccharine of the original. His setting is acerbic and almost aggressive. In 1967 Barber reworked his remarkable Adagio for Strings for eight voices. The effect is luminous. Videntes stellum, by his French contemporary Poulenc (a composer of many great religious works), is exquisite. The justly famous Miserere (mostly by Allegri, it seems) makes a great centrepiece on the disc. It is a test for the trebles in any boy’s choir, and evidence of how the sound of a boy’s choir can reduce the toughest bloke to tears.
Under their long-time director, Stephen Cleobury, the singing is mostly excellent. However, the treble line is occasionally a little insecure. From the evidence of their recordings, this fine choir has had slightly better days. This doesn’t stop their latest CD from being a delightful and illuminating experience.