Magazine article Gramophone

Sheppard: Gaude, Gaude, Gaude Maria

Magazine article Gramophone

Sheppard: Gaude, Gaude, Gaude Maria

Article excerpt

Sheppard

Gaude, gaude, gaude Maria.

Media vita. Missa Cantate

The Choir of Westminster Cathedral / Martin Baker

Hyperion (F) CDA68187 (80' * DDD * T/t)

Why has the music of John Sheppard remained comparatively neglected, while works by near-contemporaries Taverner, Tallis, Tye and White have flourished? Could it really be down to simple musical bureaucracy, as Jeremy Summerly argues in his superb booklet notes for this new recording of Sheppard's magnum opus--the 30-minute Media vita?

In today's culture of anniversary-driven programming, is the absence of a definitive birthdate to mark and memorialise really enough to blight a composer's chances? Or is it an even more pragmatic question of the lack of editions of his work that existed until fairly recently? Or could it, perhaps, be that the same angular, nonconformist polyphony that kept the composer from an Oxford doctorate during his lifetime is still disquieting for listeners more comfortable with the consonance of Tallis?

If it's the latter, then this new release by Martin Baker and the Westminster Cathedral Choir should go some way towards correcting the problem. While the smaller forces of Contrapunctus bring a wonderfully airy purity and flexibility to their rendition (the best, for my money, of extant Media vita recordings that also include The Tallis Scholars and Stile Antico), they ultimately offer something intimate. …

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