Esteves Mass for 8 Voices

Very little is known about Esteves. He was mestre de capela of Lisbon Cathedral in the first half of the 18th century. It is very likely that he studied in Rome, and this influenced his style of composing. The duet for two voices and basso continuo is very much in the style of the Italian sacred concerto. One hundred compositions by Esteves are known, found in various archives in Portugal. This suggests that his music was quite popular. It is not known when Esteves died. It is assumed he could have been one of the victims of the earthquake as his name doesn't appear in the records of the Cathedral in the following years.



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"The twelve Responsories for the Matins of Christmas Day are stylistically more even, though delightfully varied in texture. Each begins and ends chorally, with a 'vers' in the middle for an ensemble of soloists. They come from within the Christ Church choir, providing moments of breathtaking beauty, especially from the finely focused trebles."

George Pratt, BBC Music Magazine

The Christ Church Cathedral Choir delivers a beautiful reading of Esteves' music. One could argue that, with its 34 voices, it is too large. The number of trebles - 18 - makes it also a bit top-heavy. That said, the solemn character of the mass comes off very well, and expression in the Responsories is certainly not absent. Several passages are scored for reduced forces, in particular the verses. These are performed by solo voices from the choir which is certainly right. The soloists do a fine job, and that includes the two trebles Daniel Collins and Henry Bennett. Among the others we find some well-known names, like Andrew Carwood and Giles Underwood. Stephen Darlington makes a distinction between the mass and the responsories: in the latter the baroque style manifests itself more clearly than in the mass, and that is reflected by the articulation and the dynamic accents. The latter are clearly discernible, but never exaggerated. All pieces have a basso continuo part, played at two organs, one per choir. They should have been more clearly audible.
The booklet includes the lyrics with an English translation. A fine production with delightful performances of some treasures from the Portuguese musical heritage.
Johan van Veen,

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