The young English vocal ensemble Stile Antico won a Gramophone Award for Early Music in 2009 for Song of Songs, which featured Renaissance-era settings of voluptuous verse from the Biblical love poem of the same title, including Gregorian chants alongside works by Palestrina and Clemens non Papa. “In suave, finely tuned performances,” the San Francisco Chronicle wrote of the album, “the music is at once stately and inviting, devotional and, well, sexy.” While tonight’s performance at Duke Chapel will draw from Song of Songs, the group has hardly been resting on its laurels, which also include Grammy nods and various European prizes.
Stile Antico followed Song of Songs with another celebrated release for Harmonia Mundi, Media vita, devoted entirely to the works of John Sheppard, one of the most renowned religious composers of the English Tudor era. On October 12, Stile Antico continue to explore the Tudors on their fifth album, Puer natus est, which features music by Tudor composers for the Advent and Christmas. You can learn more about this rapturous, complex music, which is a far cry from “Jingle Bells,” in this excellent interview with Stile Antico tenor Andrew Griffiths from the New York arts blog Lucid Culture, which also provides a great deal of insight into Stile Antico’s conductor-less, intimately rehearsed approach to rigorous polyphonic music.
As an appetizer for the performance tonight, The Thread invites you to check out two videos of Stile Antico in song. The first is a live performance of music by Clemens non Papa that will be included in their repertoire tonight. The second is a video by Harmonia Mundi about Puer natus est that includes music and interviews. You can also hear extended excerpts from the album on the label’s “listening party” page.
Stile Antico sings “Ego flos campi” by Clemens non Papa at the Old Royal Naval College Chapel as part of the Greenwich International Festival on 15th November 2008:
Harmonia Mundi video for Puer natus est