Sheppard: Sacred Choral Music

Following Gramophone Editor’s Choices for their recent excursions into the sacred music of Bruckner and of Gabriel Jackson, Duncan Ferguson and the Choir of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh return to the epoch of their first recorded triumph – the early sixteenth century.

Their 2010 Taverner disc won plaudits across the board for its exhilarating freshness and panache; now they bring the same musical and liturgical integrity to works by Taverner’s near contemporary John Sheppard, Informator Choristarum at Magdalen College, Oxford (where Ferguson himself was a more recent organ scholar). Centred on Sheppard’s most extended and ecstatic composition, the Missa Cantate, this wide-ranging collection also includes the rarely-heard Gaude virgo Christiphera, Sheppard’s only surviving votive antiphon (with a new reconstruction of the treble part), and a first recording of Adesto sancta Trinitas II.

Most remarkable of all is the performance level to which Ferguson has raised this choir, and the expressive force given to the music by the astonishing agility of voices in the vast cathedral acoustic.

"This revelatory disc offers compelling evidence that [Sheppard] has been grossly underrated... The polyphony is rich, the use of dissonance masterly, and great arches of music compellingly sustained...[the choir] sings with fervour and plangent clarity."

"Perhaps the most striking feature of this recording from the Choir of St Mary's Cathedral Edinburgh is the way in which the trebles seem perfectly integrated within the ensemble...The rest of the choir is equally well matched and solid, and the whole is recorded with admirable presence and clarity."

"[Sheppard] is no mean composer. Here are beautifully shaped performances of the great Missa Cantate, the serenely luxuriant Libera nos, salva nos I and other works with rich and perpetually active textures."

"these pieces show [Sheppard] to be fully the equal of Byrd, Tallis and Taverner. With its ecstatic, keening trebles layered over a densely woven bed of lower-register voices, 'Libera nos, salva nos I' makes a sublime short opener... Reges Tharsis et insulae' exploits the cathedral’s wonderful acoustics to the fullest"

"His fantastically elaborate Gaude virgo Christiphera suits the delightfully deft voices of St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, as does another revelation: Hodie nobis caelorum rex...with a little choir of trebles and a tenor singing Gloria in Excelsis way off in the distance. Magical."

"The sound is sumptuous-as befits the music-but is also admirably clear, which is vital when dealing with these often-complex choral textures.This is another outstanding disc from Duncan Ferguson and his excellent choir."

"there is no doubting the choir’s energy and ardour in performing this music...or their commitment to advancing the cause of Sheppard’s glorious music"


"Their approach to Sheppard is uncompromising, and the impetuosity of youth infuses these readings with an infectious urgency and excitement...groups have a lot to learn from the pent-up energy in these engaging and thrilling performances, and I would thoroughly recommend this CD to anyone who has not yet sampled the work of Duncan Ferguson and his remarkable young choristers."


"The singing on this CD, then, is likely to please by virtue of its genuineness and understanding of the idiom; while at the same time making the intricacies and impact of Sheppard's world very much the singers' own"


Producer: Paul Baxter
Recording venue(s): St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh
Recording dates: 29-31 January & 18-20 September 2013
Physical format: Jewel case
Number of discs: 1
Number of tracks: 12
Release date: 13 January 2014
Total playing time: 1:08:59
Album ID: DCD34123

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