Where in their account of Palestrina’s Missa Aeterna Christi munera Summerly’s group are restrained in their devotional manner, this celebrated Mass for Christmas has them joyful and exuberant. The choir, over 30 strong, brings out both the beauty and the drama of the writing, and equally so in the brief motet setting the Christmas works. The magnificent Stabat Mater is wisely given to a smaller group of 16 singers, two to a part, with added clarity in the complex polyphony. Well coupled with one of Lassus’s best-loved Masses, Palestrina’s close contemporary from Flanders, this CD represents the work of two supreme polyphonic masters who died in the same year.
This magnificent Mass of Palestrina’s great Flemish contemporary, Lassus, makes a superb coupling for the outstanding performances of Palestrina masterpieces on the Naxos disc. This is the full Schola Cantorum of Oxford, not just the smaller Camerata group, and arguably it is too large for the dedicated, intimate polyphony of Lassus; but the singing is superb and the recording is warm and atmospheric. Yet another outstanding Naxos issue of early music.