Times go by Turns: Byrd, Plummer, Tallis

New York Polyphony
Early Music Review

By D. James Ross

Nowadays special features attaching to the recording process tend to pass me by as the majority of recordings are of an extremely high quality, but this SACD from BIS simply jumped out at me when I started to play it. To say that the four singers sounded as if they were in the room with me is hardly an overstatement of how vividly the sound has been captured. Of course this places tremendous demands on the performers, but fortunately New York Polyphony, a group new to me, more than fulfils expectations. Their performances of three Renaissance mass settings interspersed with three modern works are technically flawless and musically compelling. Even such very familiar works as Byrd's and Tallis's four-part Masses are rendered with such commanding authority that my attention never wavered, while the singers seem to move with ease into the entirely different sound-world of John Plummer's three-part Missa Sine nomine. This versatility is in many ways a theme in a CD which also encompasses a variety of contemporary vocal styles, and to my mind masters all these spheres with stunning aplomb. Even those of you who buy the disc primarily for the early music content - and with three complete Mass settings this is still money well spent - should give Gabriel Jackson's eclectic Ite missa est a whirl!