> WALTON Sacred Music 8555793 [TB]: Classical Reviews- April2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Sir William WALTON (1902-1983)
Sacred Music
Coronation Te Deum
Drop, drop slow tears
Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis
Where does the uttered music go?
Jubilate Deo
Touch her soft lips and part; The Death of Falstaff (organ solos)
Cantico del Sole
The Twelve
Set me as a seal upon thine heart
Missa Brevis

Christopher Whitton (organ)
Choir of St John's College, Cambridge
Christopher Robinson
Rec 10-12 July 2001, St John's College Chapel, Cambridge
NAXOS 8.555793 [66.09]

Another real bargain from Naxos. It is one of the benefits of an anniversary that a composer's achievement will be recognised by performances and recordings of a range of his music, and this attractive CD brings some excellent but little known pieces to public attention.

The Choir of St John's College, Cambridge is developing a creditable discography under Christopher Robinson's direction, including composers such as Edmund Rubbra, Herbert Howells, John Tavener and Benjamin Britten. Now their performances of Walton's sacred music form a true centenary tribute.

The opening piece is the inspired Coronation Te Deum, a truly exhilarating expression of national joy, which sounds well in this non-orchestral arrangement, thanks to Christopher Whitton's brilliantly articulated organ playing. It isn't as satisfying as the orchestral original, of course, but it is still very good. The same might be said of the two organ solos, taking music from Henry V: good but not the real thing.

The acoustic of St John's Chapel is what these performers are used to, and it is helpful to the sound they produce, with accurate ensemble rewarded and a pleasant bloom to the atmospheric sound. The Naxos engineers capture this well, both in the full toned music and the smaller scale works which make up a significant part of the programme.

The litany Drop, drop slow tears is beautifully shaped, beautifully sung, with a special attention to shadings of dynamic which is rewarding in itself. So too Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as sensitive a choral miniature as one might wish to find. Among Walton's later works, composed during the 1960s, The Twelve is a masterpiece which abounds in originality, and it gains here from the freshness of the performance and the sound. The Missa Brevis, composed for Coventry Cathedral in 1966, is another discovery offered by this imaginative compilation.

In a field too often dominated by issues with inadequate documentation, all praise to Naxos for their thorough and splendidly produced booklet, which includes the full texts of the works performed.

Terry Barfoot


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