Recommended Recording by the Sixteen
  • The Sixteen are one of my favorite early music groups. Yes, they are English in sound, but since we can't know what Renaissance polyphony really sounded like, I find them and a few others very satisfying in bringing the music to life. I was looking for a setting of Ave maris stella by Grieg and found this recording that is just stunning. Lots of overlooked Marian choral gems here and well done, indeed!

    The Sixteen - A Mother's Love
  • The Sixteen are among the best, even if they do avail themselves of female voices. For this reason Chanticleer, Hilliard, et al. are much to be preferred - and men and boys all the more so. This is as close as we can get without experimenting with temperament and period voice placement, articulation and pronunciation
    Having said this, I am not really opposed to womens' voices in this music as long as we take note that they do not at all sound like boys - no matter how hard they try. Then, they can be appreciated for their own beautiful sounds and artistry. When they do make the effort they can approximate the sound of boys; but there is always and, it seems, inevitably, that tell-tale heaviness and vibrato which, however so slight, refuses to be disguised, and ruins the blend. And, here is another thought: women undoubtedly sang in times past; though not in choir with men. And whatever they sang and wherever they sang it, they undoubtedly did not try to sound like boys. We speak, inevitably, of other genres.
  • True, I like the sound of boys too, but one inevitably loses a level of artistic maturity by using them. Many groups of the Renaissance relied on male falsettists and later castrati, so I don't have quite as much quibble about using women for this music. One of my recurring nightmares is that I am able to go back in time and hear a real cathedral choir in the 1500s and find myself disappointed with the result! Not that they would not sing well, but I fear I would find musical and timbral issues I don't like... There is still great benefit in searching for the sound of past ages, and once some technique or approach is generally accepted as valid, it takes some time to convince performers to adopt and internalize it. In the end we can never really know what it sounded like. Even then, there were most likely a much wider range of practices that we have today. With the Sixteen and the Tallis Scholars and even Gregorian chant, I believe we have unwittingly created a style that says more about our own time than the Middle Ages or Renaissance. Perhaps that is inevitable.