> Vaughan Williams Mass 8554826 [TB]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Mass in G minor
Motets: Lord, Thou hast been our refuge; Prayer to the Father of Heaven; O vos omnes; O clap your hands; O taste and see
Anthem: O how amiable
Hymn: Come, down, O Love divine (Down Ampney)

Elora Festival Singers
Thomas Fitches (organ)
Noel Edison
Rec 8-11 February 2000, Church of St Mary Magdalene, Toronto and St Mary's Church, Elora, Ontario
NAXOS 8.554826 [56.41]


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The major work on this programme of Vaughan Williams's choral music is of course the Mass in G minor, which at once shows his debt to the earlier masters of English music and his true understanding of how their work might be put to good creative use. In that sense the music has much in common with that great, better-known masterpiece, the Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis.

The Mass is a major work in its own right, however, and far more than a mere pastiche. If it sounds as though it is a pastiche, the performers have failed. While this Canadian performance is no match for the leading recording by the Corydon Singers and Matthew Best (Hyperion CDA 66076), it is still a worthy effort deserving of praise. And the price is attractive too.

The performance by the Elora Singers from Ontario deserves much praise, and the recording is well balanced, an important consideration in a capella vocal music. The dynamic range is well caught, adding much to the expressive intensity and the music's special atmosphere. If there is a criticism it is that the phrasing tends to have a somewhat generalised approach, with the result that tension is not maintained over the longer term, and some subtleties are therefore missed.

The shorter items make this an appealing collection of interesting repertoire, but the details of the composer's subtle textures are not always articulated. Even so this remains a rewarding collection at the price.

Terry Barfoot

See also review by Gary Higginson


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