> Choral and Song
Sacred Works for Soprano, and Concertos
Manahan Thomas; Florilegium. Texts and translations. Channel Classics CCS SA 32311
Elin Manahan Thomas and the period-instrument ensemble Florilegium collaborate on expressive, appealing performances of the solo motets "Laudate pueri" and "Nulla in mundo." Manahan Thomas's fresh, clear soprano seems to hit a "ceiling" in the opening movement of "Laudate pueri," but after that the bright top opens out freely. She maintains a marvelous instrumental purity and lovely legato in sustained lines, and she knows how to color her voice in accordance with the music's changing moods (including an unexpectedly serious "Gloria Patri" in "Laudate pueri!").
The only reservations come with Manahan Thomas's insubstantial low tones — which probably didn't project much past the microphone — and her mostly clean but inconsistent execution of the coloratura. Those in "Laudate pueri" are semi-detached but unaspirated, those in "Nulla in mondo"s bouncy, joyous second aria explicitly aspirated. The tricky alternating-note patterns in the same motet's Alleluia are approximated as shakes. On the plus side, the fast runs in the Amen of "Laudate pueri" have a good one-in-a-bar whirl, while the slow melismas in "A solis ortu" are calm and even.
The ten members of Florilegium support the soloist with a full-bodied sonority, launching the fast movements with bracing, incisive rhythmic address, finding some weight in the rocking sicilianas, drawing a measured solemnity in the two slow arias of "Laudate pueri." The players bring similar enthusiasm and buoyancy to three concertos, with director Ashley Solomon wielding a deft if breathy solo flute in "Il Gran Mogul." The compatible SACD sounds warm and vivid, even in plain frontal stereo.
STEPHEN FRANCIS VASTA