CD Review: Times go by Turns

New York Polyphony
Early Music Today (UK)

By Ed Breen

Three settings of the mass from fifteenth-century England interspersed with two modern motets and a Kyrie make for a superb programme from New York Polyphony. The older works offer pertinent snapshots of the changing religious climate during the Tudor ascent, while newer works reflect on the continuing influence of Renaissance music.

The ensemble is at its best in the new music, which they sing with a stylish flair, and the more homophonic passages of Tallis, which they unfailingly imbue with direction and purpose. In the Byrd, however, the sound can sometimes get a little overwhelmed by its own beauty which, in turn, has a tendency to eclipse the polyphonic momentum. This neatly illustrates the challenges facing today’s ensembles who are required to both conform to an early music sound world while offering a fresh take on canonic repertoire.

Despite that tiny misgiving, this is not a disc that should be overlooked; New York Polyphony go from strength to strength with each new album and their flair for programming is admirable.