Cantate Domino, recorded by legendary sound engineer Bertil Alving in 1976, is widely regarded as one of the greatest audiophile masterpieces ever recorded. Opening with Enrico Bossi's "Cantate Domino" for choir, organ, trumpets and trombones, the choral album includes a number of Swedish folk songs as well as pieces by Handel, Otto Olsson, and others. The famous reference record is now made even better with this new hi-definition release.
The anonymous Mass Cantate Domino for six voices (#1-4) is recorded in an incomplete set of part-books of about 1550, traditionally linked with Dunkeld Cathedral, but more likely originating in the collegiate chapel of Lincluden, Dumfriesshire. Much has had to be done to complete the music: the bass part is missing throughout and three other voices are more or less fragmentary towards the end. The style of the music is 'British decorative' of the earlier sixteenth century with its characteristic mixture of florid and imitative counterpoint. On closer examination, however, the work may be of Scottish origin: the music is directly related to the five-part Mass Fera pessima by Robert Carver, finest Scottish composer of sacred music in the early sixteenth century. I suggest that the present Mass is a reworking of about 1525 for six voices, possibly by Carver himself, of the earlier five-part composition: much thematic material is common to both works, though the six-part shows a more assured technical command. It is a cyclic Mass in the established tradition: each movement opens with the same head-motif and each is based on the same cantus firmus - a plainsong melody, as yet unidentified. Also, traditionally, the music has been arranged to alternate full and solo sections. It is an impressive work, and if by Carver - it is certainly very good Carver.
Paul Hillier’s Theatre of Voices, like the Hilliard Ensemble with whom he was associated before settling in America, have given the music of Arvo Part a prominent place in their repertoire. Hillier has also written a book on Part – from which his notes accompanying this CD are mostly drawn (The Music of Arvo Part; OUP: 1997) – and in the collective interview run in last September’s issue (page 14) he described his first encounter with several of Part’s scores, “Something leapt out at me: this was the kind of music I had been waiting to perform”.