Taverner: Missa Christi sanctissima; Missa Mater Christi sanctissima; Western Wynde Mass

Reviewed on Thu 28 Jul, 2016

Certainly Taverner’s richly layered polyphony lends itself to the liturgically-informed approach of the Westminster choristers, whose steadily-paced, unaffectedly graceful singing is a reflection of their immersion in daily ritual.

Of the three works here, John Taverner’s Western Wynde Mass is unusually based on a risqué secular song melody, which recurs frequently throughout especially in the trebles, while the Mater Christi sanctissima Mass has a more conventionally pious source, Taverner’s own motet, also recorded here. Cathedral choirs such as that of Westminster Abbey preserve the tradition of boys’ voices for the upper parts, and this tends to give them a distinctive and arguably more ‘authentic’ sound than the mixed voices of many modern professional ensembles. Such choirs also embed their interpretation in the daily practice of sung liturgy, which is of course as it should be. Certainly Taverner’s richly layered polyphony lends itself to the liturgically-informed approach of the Westminster choristers, whose steadily-paced, unaffectedly graceful singing is a reflection of their immersion in daily ritual. The boy trebles make their bright, bell-like presence felt in the resonant acoustic of St Alban’s Church, Holborn.
–Mark Walker