Westminster Cathedral Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor)
The dates which musicians use to delineate historical periods are frequently misleading. The year 1600, for instance, is conventionally regarded as a convenient point at which to separate the Renaissance era from the Baroque; the fact that the earliest complete surviving opera dates from that year fuels this otherwise arbitrary division. However, the labels Renaissance and Baroque are of limited use when applied to the sacred music of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries: there is little of the neoclassical about the music of Palestrina, and few grotesque ornaments in Monteverdi’s music for the church. In England the distinction between Renaissance and Baroque carries even less weight—it is only the Puritanism of the Protectorate in the mid-seventeenth century that interrupts a continuous stylistic thread that links the sacred music written during the years immediately preceding the Civil War with that of the Reformation. In short, there is much that connects the items within this anthology in spite of historical generalizations that might indicate otherwise.