England’s Stile Antico are peerless purveyors of Renaissance polyphonic music | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

England’s Stile Antico are peerless purveyors of Renaissance polyphonic music 

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click to enlarge Stile Antico

Stile Antico

Marco Borggreve

I won’t pretend to know much about Renaissance vocal music, but I will say that encountering Divine Theatre: Sacred Motets by Giaches de Wert (Harmonia Mundi), the new album by veteran British vocal ensemble Stile Antico, certainly has me challenging my ignorance. The recording features the group bringing its polyphonic precision to the sacred motets of Flemish composer Giaches de Wert, who spent most of his life living in Italy and whose fame stems primarily from his madrigals. The 12-person ensemble sings the pieces with overwhelming beauty and exactitude, forming rich, ethereal harmonies and fluid counterpoint that pull me in every time. The new album led me to the 2015 record Sing With the Voice of Melody, a madrigal collection of some of the ensemble’s favorite pieces from its first decade together—including two compositions by William Byrd, one of the composers featured in tonight’s concert. The program for Stile Antico’s Chicago debut is titled “In a Strange Land: Elizabethan Composers in Exile” and focuses on Byrd, John Dowland, Peter Phillips, and Richard Dering, all Brits who spent significant time living and composing in countries other than their homeland. I can only imagine how the ensemble’s voices will fill the upper recesses of Hyde Park’s gorgeous Rockefeller Chapel.   v

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