The Golden Age – Siglo de Oro


The first disc to be released in The King’s Singers 40th anniversary year celebrates music by Portuguese, Spanish and Mexican composers from the period known as the Siglo de Oro, The Golden Age.

The idea for the disc came from the King’s Singers church concert programmes, where the acoustics allowed great scope for drama. The music featured is exceptionally beautiful and deeply moving, with a combination of joyful and sorrowful s e ttings, indicating the substantial outpouring of music during this period.

Regularly performing over 100 concerts per season, the King’s Singers delight audiences a round the world. As the London Times states, they are ‘still unmatched for their musicality and sheer ability to entertain’.


What people are saying

No coffee or whisky blend matches the suavity of the unaccompanied King’s Singers. Their intonation is excellent in this sumptuous collection of Spanish, Portuguese and Mexican church Music””

The Times

“The famous group exercise from the start that extraordinary communal ear which takes care of intonation, blend, clarity of diction and finesse of shading”

Gramophone Magazine

“King’s Singers maintain their unmistakable cool timbre, faultless intonation and smooth blend … great examples of unaccompanied choral music sung with precision and insight by masters of their art”

The Observer

The King’s Singers

David Hurley
Robin Tyson
Paul Phoenix
Philip Lawson
Christopher Gabbitas
Stephen Connolly

Release date:3rd Mar 2008
Order code:SIGCD119
Barcode: 635212011928, February 2008

By now The King’s Singers certainly can record almost anything they want, and this program, focusing on repertoire from the “Golden Age” of Spanish, Portuguese, and Mexican vocal music, grew organically from the group’s church concerts. The result is a collection of rarely-heard primarily polyphonic works from the 16th and early 17th centuries, most notably several settings of the text Versa est in luctum (from the Book of Job) and two remarkable and substantial works by Alonso Lobo–Lamentations and Libera me–both notable for their rich textures and vibrant, often surprising harmonies that these six singers exploit to the fullest. The opening work, Crux fidelis, from King John IV of Portugal (1604-56), is an exquisitely crafted hymn that captivates with its gorgeous harmonies interspersed with verses of plainchant. Here all aspects of the singers’ impeccable diction, phrasing, blend, balance, and expressive nuance are on display, absolutely clear and with pleasing, natural presence (engineer Mike Hatch, a veteran of so many first rate vocal recordings, also must receive at least some of the credit for this!)

In other hands, a program focusing on sacred music with sombre themes–lamentations, mourning, sorrow, fasting and tears, deliverance from everlasting death–might be doomed before it began; but The King’s Singers as usual bring a freshness and vitality to their vocalism and a warm, welcoming quality to their sound that projects a certain “personality” that not only makes listening easy, but brings substantial rewards as well. No one who enjoys this repertoire or The King’s Singers needs further encouragement; and it’s always a pleasure to be reminded of or introduced so favorably to composers such as Alonso Lobo. Highly recommended!

David Vernier

The Times, 7th March 2008

No coffee or whisky blend matches the suavity of the unaccompanied King’s Singers. Their intonation is excellent in this sumptuous collection of Spanish, Portuguese and Mexican church Music. The opening processional raises the risks of British politeness, but the voices gather colour and character, and Alonso Lobo’s Lamentations offers abundant rewards. The music is centred on death; but where there is beauty there is life.

Geoff Brown

BBC Music Magazine, April 2008
Performance *****, Sound *****

The Golden Age of Iberian arts and culture effectively began with the reclamation of Granada from the Moors in 1492 and fizzled out sometime late in the 17th century. In recent years many early music groups have been re-discovering the rich storehouse of Renaissance and Baroque music composed in the Hispanic colonies of South and Central America, and here The King’s Singers draw on music from Mexico as well as Spain and Portugal.

The recital focuses on music of lamentation, both for death and for humankind’s wilful separation from God. Simple and subtly-gleaming like the lamp over a church tabernacle, Crux Fidelis, composed by King John IV of Portugal, opens the programme perfectly. If it’s a cliché to draw parallels between the music and the dark, rich interiors of the time, it’s nonetheless a useful one. In these performances the colours pulse with the glow of a fire controlled, tended and kept ready rather than with the bright radiance of the heavens. The King’s Singers perform with their customary clarity of line, rhythmic grace and attention to texture.

Barry Witherden

Classic FM Magazine, May 2008, *****

A 40th anniversary release from the King’s Singers, emotionally charged yet immaculate execution, includes unmissable performances of Lobo’s Lamentations and Versa est in luctum.

Andrew Stewart

Gramophone, May 2008

The King’s Singers mark their 40th anniversary this year. In London their first celebratory concert was devoted to music of the Spanish Renaissance, and reviewing in The Times Hilary Finch noted that in the second half “the riot of music and mine” caused visiting Spaniards “to jump out of their seats with joy”. This CD gives us the first half.

And there are no laughs here. The mood is penitential, the programme a sequence of laments. The text from Job, “Versa est in luctum” (“My harp is turned to mourning”), is heard in four settings, the most inspired being probably the one by Alonso Lobo, whose Lamentations is the longest work included and whose Libera me seems the most intense. The opening hymn, Crux fidelis, with music by King John IV of Portugal, is the most serene in character, so that the programme passes like a procession in Holy Week from that quiet beginning to the fierce declamation of the Lobo’s “Dies illa, dies irae”.

The famous group exercise from the start that extraordinary communal ear which takes care of intonation, blend, clarity of diction and finesse of shading. Characteristic (in this music at least) is the elimination of vibrato while managing to avoid that assertive ironed-out tone which often goes with it. In homophonic passages, as at the beginning of Crux fidelis, they come too near to the “electronic” tone for my liking, and, when playing the motets of the Portuguese composer, Melgas, in a recording by Pro Cantione Antiqua (Hyperion, 11/94), I prefer that group’s more resonant singing. Still, this is (as Hilary Finch also said) a feast of “sublime lamentation”, and, as a birthday offering, is distinguished by a fine austerity such as might have pleased Philip II himself.

John Steane

The Singer Magazine, April/ May 2008

Our cover boys, the King’s Singers, are celebrating their 40th anniversary with a release, not of pomp and fireworks as one might expect, but rather a still, reflective collection of Iberian music from the 15th and 16th centuries, known as the Siglo de Oro period, The Golden Age.

Previous albums and concerts had included works from this period, which led to the idea of devoting a whole album to it. Ranging from works by Christóbal de Morales, Alonso Lobo, Diego Dias Melgas to King John IV of Portugal, the album exemplifies the ensemble’s extraordinary tightness of sound and harmony, and their deep devotion to musicianship . The vocal balance is pretty much perfect, the atmosphere and production clean and non-intrusive – the correct approach to this repertoire, where simplicity and relishing of harmony is all. You would be hard-pushed to find another ensemble that so successfully melds as -one voice’.

Antonia Couling

The Observer, 28th April 2008

Despite many changes of personnel over the past 40 years, the King’s Singers maintain their unmistakable cool timbre, faultless intonation and smooth blend – almost too smooth at times in these examples of passionate, sensuous 16th-century Spanish, Portuguese and Mexican polyphony, the first release marking their anniversary. Signum has also put out an album of ballads and folksongs, but The Golden Age represents the Singers’ bedrock repertoire – great examples of unaccompanied choral music sung with precision and insight by masters of their art.

Stephen Pritchard

International Record Review, June 2008

The latest offering from The King’s Singers in their ‘serious’ series for Signum Classics is ‘The Golden Age’ – a collection of mainly well-loved pieces by Portuguese, Spanish and Mexican composers of the Siglo de Oro. I’ve welcomed several of their earlier recordings in these pages, and once again I can only praise their intonation and ultra-cohesive ensemble. Some will find this all too smooth and warm: the underlying rhythmic pulse (the tactus) seems immutable and there are rather a lot of swelling crescendos and bulges. However, their velvety, chocolatey richness cast new expressive light on four exquisitely expressive settings of the funeral text Versa est in luctum by Victoria, Vivanco, Padilla and Alonso Lobo. Forget the liturgy and wallow.

Simon Heighes, November 2008

In Siglo De Oro, the famed King’s Singers present music from Spain, Portugal and South America from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Siglo de Oro refers to the “Golden Age” of music-making in the Hispanic world at that time. It was an age when composers created incredibly rich and beautiful sound-worlds, of mainly deep and intense mourning, but also of great spiritual joy.

The disc commences with a tenderly sung version of Crux fidelis by King John IV of Portugal – a musician, composer and patron. It works well as the opening piece, and is often used a Processional in King’s Singers concerts. The lyrical Kyrie from Cristóbal de Morales’s Mass Mille Regretz follows, before Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Versa est in luctum, published in 1605. Victoria is probably the best known composer on the disc, but it also features three other settings of the same text – a lugubrious verse of lamentation from the Book of Job. These are by Sebastian de Vivanco, the maestro de capilla at Avila, and later at Salamanca (where he taught at the University), an intimate setting by the Spanish-born Juan Gutierrez de Padilla (who later moved to Mexico), and a plaintive rendition by Alonso Lobo, the latter most likely composed for Philip II’s funeral in 1598. Lobo is well represented here, with his touching Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah (for Holy Saturday), and the glorious Libera Me, which closes the disc. The final composer featured is Diogo Dias Melgas, mestre da capela at Evora cathedral, whose mournful In ieiunio et fletu and precatory Pia et dolorosa mater are featured.

What we have here is singing of the very highest order – superb intonation, ensemble performance, and communication of emotion. The works are deeply melancholic, and the King’s Singers perform with tremendous intensity, making a deeply moving anthology. Their soaring, beautifully blending voices have a richness and smooth sonority that is amplified by the resonant acoustic of the superbly chosen venue of St Andrew’s Church, Toddington. A splendid uplifting disc.

Em Marshall

  1. Crux fidelis – King John IV of Portugal (1604-56) –
  2. Kyrie (Mass Mille Regretz) – Crist?bal de Morales (ca.1500-53) –
  3. Versa est in luctum – Tom?s Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) –
  4. In ieiunio et fletu – Diogo Dias Melgas (1638-1700) –
  5. Versa est in luctum – Sebasti?n de Vivanco (ca.1550-1622) –
  6. Lamentations – Alonso Lobo (1555-1617) –
  7. Versa est in luctum – Juan Guti?rrez de Padilla (ca.1590-1664) –
  8. Pia et dolorosa mater – Diogo Dias Melgas –
  9. Versa est in luctum – Alonso Lobo –
  10. Libera me – Alonso Lobo –

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