The skill of Harry Christophers in constructing fascinating programmes for his choristers, both live and on disc, is well known, and The Sixteen's annual choral pilgrimages have an ever-growing number of devotees.
But his one-offs are often more fascinating still and this was a classic. The featured composers were James MacMillan, present to hear the Miserere he wrote for the choir four years ago as well as a gob-smacking account of his O bone Jesu from 2002, and Robert Carver, his Scots antecedent of half a millennium ago, whose own O bone Jesu, first heard in the Stirling court of James IV at the start of the 16th century, was shown to be ground-breaking.
The comparison points were Englishmen Robert Wylkynson and Thomas Tallis, the former rather shown up by Carver's delicious miniature Credo from 1513, and the latter permitted the last word with the glorious 40-part Spem in alium. From the confident performance of Carver's fantastic complexity to MacMillan's superb chordal progression towards faith in the two syllables of "Jesu" and the choir's stunning realisation of his "sighing, sliding effects" - to quote his own programme note - it was the Scots who had the edge.
The prize, however, goes to Christophers and The Sixteen. There is none of your hair shirt early music austerity from this lot, numbering anything from 13 to 30 before the additions for Spem. They are surely now established as the bridge between populism and academic rigour, equally at home on the full chorale of the last three lines of the Carver as on MacMillan's contemporary music and the more familiar work of Tallis. The Scots musical canon could not be in safer hands.
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A version of this review appeared in later editions of yesterday's Herald