"Music for Compline," a collection of liturgical music from Tudor-era England intended for the "bedtime liturgy" at Catholic religious institutions, was released by Harmonia Mundi early this year. The recording quickly received top accolades, the Diapason d'or and Choc du Monde de la Musique, from France's two leading classical music magazines, and very favorable reviews from the Anglophone press as well. Last Friday (June 22), National Public Radio featured "Music for Compline" on All Things Considered, and within a few hours the disc reached the top of the classical bestsellers list at Amazon.com.
Founded in 2001 and little known in the U.S. until last week, Stile Antico came to notice in the British arts world in the summer of 2005 via the Young Artists' Competition at the York Early Music Festival. The group won the Audience Award and took second prize overall; among the jurors, as it happens, was Robina Young, artistic director of Harmonia Mundi USA, who wasted little time in recruiting the singers for her roster.
(The next album by Stile Antico, called "Heavenly Harmonies" and featuring English Protestant tunes by Thomas Tallis alongside Latin Catholic motets by his friend William Byrd, was recorded last month and is scheduled for release early next year.)
The Stile Antico disc is the only new arrival on this week's Billboard classical chart, though five titles have returned. Top among them, at no. 6, is Bedtime Beats: The Secret to Sleep, billed as "the first classical music collection available as a true sleep remedy, an effective alternative to medication ... carefully programmed in accordance with recent research ... which discovered that classical and soft jazz music played at 60-80 beats per minute induces sound sleep." (The first Amazon.com customer review of the two-disc set is headlined "It works!")
Also re-entering the chart are soprano Nicole Cabell's debut CD with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Andrew Davis (no. 22), Ren_e Fleming's Sacred Songs (no. 23), maverick Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero's Bach and Beyond (no. 24) and Cloudburst and other choral works by Eric Whitacre (no. 25).
Songs from the Labyrinth, veteran rock star Sting's rendition of Elizabethan lute songs by John Dowland, has retaken the no. 1 position from Yo-Yo Ma's Appassionato and Joshua Bell's Voice of the Violin, which are now at nos. 3 and 4, respectively. Back near the top, at no. 5, is Sting's other recent classical release, The Journey and the Labyrinth, a DVD-CD companion to Songs from the Labyrinth. (Appearing with Sting on The Journey, as a sort of backup group, is Stile Antico.)
Lang Lang's recording of Beethoven's Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 4 with Christoph Eschenbach and the Orchestre de Paris tumbled from second to seventh place, while Jon Nakamatsu's all-Gershwin disc with the Rochester Philharmonic rose from 11th to eighth place.
Josh Groban's Awake remains atop the Billboard classical crossover chart, again followed by two Il Divo albums, Siempre and Ancora (though they have changed places, the latter edging ahead of the former). Two releases by Andrea Bocelli, Amore and Under the Desert Sky, are in fourth and fifth places, as they have been for weeks, but the soundtrack to the new Edith Piaf biopic La Vie en rose has moved up four notches to take sixth place from Bocelli's Spanish-language album, Amor. Showtime!, the collection of Broadway and movie tunes by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, has slipped from no. 7 to no. 9.
Returning to the crossover chart are Sarah Brightman's Love Changes Everything: The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection, Vol. 2 (no. 23), and songstress Giorgia Fumanti's From My Heart.