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Come, Holy Spirit: Music for Ascension, Pentecost and Trinity
Gerald FINZI (1901-1956)

God is gone up (1951)
Thomás Luis de VICTORIA (1548-1611)

Ascendens Christus
William BYRD (c. 1539-1623)

Alleluia. Ascendit Deus
Durate LOBO (c. 1565-1646)

Regina caeli laetare
J.S. BACH (1685-1750)

Fantasia super Komm, Heiliger Geist, BWV 651, for organ
Komm, Gott, Schopfer, Heiliger Geist, BWV 667, for organ
Kyrie, Gott Heiliger Geist, BWV 671, for organ
Giovanni Perluigi de PALESTRINA (c.1525-1594)

Veni sancte spiritus
Spiritus sanctus
Thomas TALLIS (c. 1505-1585)
If ye love me
O Lord, give thy Holy Spirit
Loquebantur varlis linguis
Jonathan HARVEY (b. 1939)

Come, Holy Ghost (1984)
Orlando de LASSUS (c. 1531-1594)

Tibi laus, tibi gloria
Sir John TAVENER (b. 1944)

Prayer to the Holy Trinity (1995)
Francisco GUERRERO (1528-1599)

Duo seraphim
Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929-1988)

Let all the world in every corner sing (1965)
The Choir of the Queen’s College, Oxford/Owen Rees (director)
George Parsons (organ)
Recorded: Queen’s College, Oxford, England, 1-3 July 2003
GUILD GMCD 7276 [58:07]

 

The theme of this release from the enterprising Guild label is the great climaxes of the Christian year. These are the three feasts following Easter: the Ascension (forty days after Easter), Pentecost or Whitsunday (fifth day after Easter), and Trinity Sunday (one week later). Performed by the eminent Choir of the Queen’s College, Oxford under the expert direction of Owen Rees, the Guild label mark these three great feasts with liturgical choral music of the late Renaissance and the twentieth century, together with three organ works by J. S. Bach. This new Guild release complements their previous recording with this choir entitled ‘Christ Rising’ which presents music from the same broad territory for the final days of Holy Week and Easter Day.

This release features mainly familiar sacred choral music from four of the greatest figures of the late Renaissance period: William Byrd, Tomás Luis de Victoria, Orlando de Lassus, and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina together with Byrd’s teacher, Thomas Tallis, Victoria’s most famous Spanish predecessor, Francisco Guerrero and the Portuguese composer Duarte Lobo.

From the twentieth century come liturgical choral works from four eminent English composers Gerald Finzi, Kenneth Leighton, Sir John Tavener and Jonathan Harvey. The programme opens with the anthem God is gone up from London-born Gerald Finzi, a significant composer who is now gaining the popularity that his talents richly deserve.

At the centre of the programme in Pentecost and the largest-scale work here, is Come, Holy Ghost by the progressive and imaginative composer Jonathan Harvey. Sutton Coldfield born, Jonathan Harvey's Come Holy Ghost is an inspired meditation upon the Pentecost hymn which has been used by Guild as the title of this release. Sir John Tavener has steadily gained popular appeal on a world-wide scale and the Londoner is represented here with the world premiere recording of his Prayer to the Holy Trinity. The programme concludes with Kenneth Leighton’s score Let all the world. The work from the Wakefield-born composer marks his connection as a past student of the Queen's College, Oxford; having studied there with Bernard Rose.

The mixed voices of this choir give expressive and finely shaped accounts of this varied programme of devotional scores. Owen Rees deserves considerable praise for his expert direction of the choir to exemplary and inspiring heights.

Their extremely convincing interpretation of Finzi’s God is gone up which is particularly memorable and Victoria’s motet Ascendens Christus together with Palestrina’s Spiritus sanctus are exceptionally well presented in vigorous and exhilarating performances. We are told that Tavener’s Prayer to the Holy Trinity is receiving its first recording. The score is ‘typical’ Tavener and the choir’s performance offers maximum concentration and a successful blend of vocal security and understated emotion. Jonathan Harvey’s Come, Holy Ghost from 1984 is clearly a major work. I just love the way that tension is conveyed and how the work is thrillingly characterised; an atmospheric and often unnerving score.

It is good to hear the excellent condition of the 1965 Frobenius organ which has a robust and most appealing timbre. Organist George Parsons is an admirable soloist playing with considerable authority maintaining high standards of performance. The engineers have provided a pleasing and well balanced sound.

No one investing in this well presented Guild release is likely to be disappointed.

Michael Cookson



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