Passion & Polyphony: Sacred choral music by Frank Martin and James MacMillan

Reviewed on Mon 09 Apr, 2018

There’s no question that, despite their slender resources, Sonoro can make a large sound, but passion is sometimes given too free a rein at the expense of refined polyphony.

For its debut on disc, the mixed-voice London-based choir Sonoro shrewdly couple Frank Martin and James MacMillan, composers a generation apart who share a glancing affinity with Renaissance music. There’s no question that despite their slender resources, Sonoro can make a large sound, but passion is sometimes given too free a rein at the expense of refined polyphony. The sense of theatre they find in Martin’s Mass for Double Choir is a plus in the slow-burning 'Sanctus' and swelling immediacy of the 'Agnus Dei', but elsewhere serves deeply interior music less eloquently. They’re on securer ground with MacMillan, beautifully hushed and vividly intense in Miserere, luminous and moving in the setting of John Donne’s Bring Us, O Lord. The Strathclyde motet, Data est mihi omnis potestas, boasts liquid, high female voices of refulgent beauty. There’s characterful singing to be found here and admirably well-blended sound, but Sonoro can afford not to turn the dial up to 11 quite so often.
–Michael Quinn