> REJOICE [JP]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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REJOICE; Sacred Choral Music Through the Ages
Orlando di LASSUS (1532-1594)

Aurora lucis rutilat - Motet for 10vv (pub.1604) [6’03"]
Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585)

O nata lux - Hymn for 5vv (pub. 1575) [1’50"]
William BYRD (1543-1623)

Haec dies - Motet for 6vv (pub. 1591) [2’35"]
Josquin des PREZ (c.1450-1521)

Ave Maria...virgo serena - Motet for 4vv [5’39"]
*Directed by Philip Nicholls (Assistant Director)
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (1525/6-1594)

Exsultate Deo - Motet for 5vv (pub. 1584) [2’11"]
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)

Cantate Domino - Motet for 6vv (pub. 1620) [1’58"]
Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672)

Selig sind die Toten, SWV391 - Motet for 6vv (pub. 1648) [5’30"]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

Richte mich, Gott Op.78 No.3 - Psalm for 8vv (1848) [4’03"]
Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)

Ave Maria - Motet for 7vv (1861) [4’14"]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Wenn ein starker Gewappneter, Op.109 No.2 - Motet for 8vv [3’31"]
Franz BIEBL (1906-2001)

Ave Maria - Motet for Baritone and Chorus (1964) [8’26"]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)

Regina coeli - Motet for double choir [3’36"]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)

Ave maris stella - Vesper Hymn (1899) [3’57"]
Maurice DURUFLÉ (1902-1986)

Ubi caritas et amor, Op.10 No.1 - Motet (1960) [2’27"]
Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)

Coelos ascendit hodie, Op.38 No.2 - Motet for Double Choir (pub.1905) [2’35"]
Choir of Trinity College, University of Melbourne/Michael Leighton Jones
Recorded 24-26 November 2000, Chapel of Xavier College, Kew, Melbourne.
ABC CLASSICS 472 310-2 [58’13"]

The choir of Trinity College, University of Melbourne, have obviously been singing together for some time, which is surprising as, from the photograph in the booklet, they look young and I assume there must be a preponderance of undergraduates. This being so, there must be changes to the personnel as some members leave for furtherance of their careers, their places being taken by others. The choir is twenty-five strong, with 9 sopranos, 4 altos (including 2 counter-tenors), 5 tenors and 6 basses. This gives a very comfortable balance, and with ample room for variation in volume, even for fortissimos. The Director, Michael Leighton Jones, has a wide experience of choral music and singing, having sung in the Choir at King’s College, Cambridge, and also with small groups. He has been director of music at Trinity College since 1997, and brought the choir to England in 1998.

The choir are well drilled, and ensemble singing is good; there is good attack. Diction throughout is admirable. I hardly needed the printed words in the booklet. The general tone, however, suffers from some over-bright, almost harsh-voiced, sopranos. The counter-tenors are difficult to distinguish, and I do not know if contraltos are used in the renaissance works (there is no information on this in the booklet). The ambience in the Chapel of Xavier College is nicely bright, with just the right amount of reverberation.

As regards the performances, the results are uneven; the first four renaissance items I found too deliberate. The mood should be more relaxed and with some legato phrasing, but instead the performances are four-square where they should be of linear context. Each chord tends to get "punched out", which becomes tedious and tiresome with repetition. The Tallis sounds quick, but is really again to do with the mode of singing. Rutter and the Cambridge Singers take 1’40", but sound more at ease (Collegium COLCD113). Deller and his Consort are admittedly much slower at 2’07" but do not drag (Vanguard 08.2026-71) - nla. The punctuated rhythm in "Haec dies" makes it sound more laboured than it really is. The Palestrina and Monteverdi tracks, on the other hand, gain somewhat from this approach, and there are some welcome legato passages in the latter.

When we progress to the more classical period, the style of singing changes to a much more relaxed legato approach. This suits the music well, and the pieces are well presented and obviously enjoyed by the choir. The Brahms, in particular, would tax any choir with its modulations into distant keys, but the choir copes with the complexities with aplomb. The Bruckner is on the slow side, but then this is Bruckner! Biebl is a composer I had not met before, but his Ave Maria is very rich in harmony and vocal spread. The baritone soloist intones the plainsong-like interludes in a very acceptably relaxed manner, and the choir respond in three repeated Ave Marias, and a final Sancte Maria.

The final four items, I again find myself at odds with the interpretations; In the Howells, I thought that more attack could have been given to the opening sequence, although things do improve thereafter. The Grieg is a beautiful piece, and anyone who does not know it, I urge to remedy that omission. Again, in the beginning I consider the opening to be too loud and declamatory for what is an introspective gentle arrangement by Grieg of his solo song to this text. Lastly, the Stanford could have had a much more joyous and declamatory start, which would have added to the triumphal nature of this piece.

The overall impression of the disc is one of a lack of intimacy in these very inward looking works; However, there is a lot of fine singing, and I give the disc a cautious welcome.
John Portwood


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