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.