Stile Antico

From the Imperial Court: Music for the House of Hapsburg

[Harmonia Mundi USA]

Three and a half stars

This is wonderful Renaissance music, most of it by Flemish and Spanish composers. A lot of it can make you think of Palestrina, with that weightless feeling as if the melodies are floating down from heaven. There also are harmonic surprises, as if the music is playing tricks with your ear. One of the most gorgeous pieces is “Loquebantur variis linguis” by Thomas Tallis, with interludes of glorious polyphony linked by lines of Gregorian chant. A “Jubilate Deo” by Cristobal de Morales also strikes a majestic note. There is a secular curiosity I loved: Jacob Clemens Non Papa’s “Carole magnus eras,” a paean to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. It ends: “Rome is yours, Europe is yours, Asia and all of Africa. What more? You cannot: You have everything.”

The liner notes are dense and it’s hard to find your way around the CD because the pieces are listed one way on the jacket and in another order – the actual order – in the notes. Still it’s a beautiful disc. Stile Antico is at the top of the Renaissance a cappella scene. Their voices are seamless.

– Mary Kunz Goldman