> Eastertide GCCD4033 [WH]: Classical CD Reviews- June2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Eastertide – Music for lent, Passiontide and Easter
TRADITIONAL: Forty days and Forty Nights
Richard FARRANT: Call to Remembrance, O Lord
John Dykes BOWER: Praise to the Holiest in the Height
PURCELL: Hear my Prayer
PURCELL: Remember not, Lord, our Offences
John MUDD: Let thy Merciful ears
Maurice GREENE: Lord, let me know mine end
BYRD: Bow thine Ear, O Lord
IRELAND: My Song is Love Unknown
John GOSS: O Saviour of the World
GIBBONS: Drop, drop, slow tears
CASALS: O vos omnes
IRELAND: Ex ore innocentium
BAIRSTOW: Lamentation
TALLIS: Salvator mundi
LOTTI: Crucifixus
St. Mary’s, Warwick: Easter Bells

Barry ROSE: Easter Flourish
Trad. arr. WOOD: This joyful Eastertide
BYRD: Adora te
S S WESLEY: Blessed be the God and Father
Henry GAUNTLET: Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem
Tewkesbury Abbey School Choir/Andrew Sackett,
(with Collegiate Church of St. Mary, Warwick/Simon Lole; Wells Cathedral Choir/Malcolm Archer; Worcester Cathedral Choir/Donald Hunt; Westminster Abbey Choir/Martin Neary.
Date/location of recordings unspecified.
GRIFFIN GCCD 4033 [72.37]

This record brings together twenty-one short works relating to that period of forty days in the church’s year from the beginning of Lent to Easter Sunday. There is also one short burst of church bells. The programme has been well chosen, but as with the other Easter disc reviewed elsewhere, there is a certain lack of variety which has its origin in the subject matter, and not everyone will want to sit and listen right through. Most of the pieces are performed by the Tewkesbury Abbey Choir under their director, Andrew Sackett, but there are contributions from four other choirs, conductors and organists.

The one piece from Worcester, John Ireland’s beautiful hymn Love Unknown, is difficult to judge as it is given here in a full congregational-style rendering and rather heavy weather is made of it. I remember being struck by the gentle modulations and aspiring quality of this tune many years ago as a young bass on the back row of the school choir, and we certainly aimed for greater sensitivity then than it receives here.

Westminster Abbey Choir under Martin Neary also provide only one piece, S.S. Wesley’s big anthem Blessed be the God and Father, but a splendidly sonorous job they make of it.

The choir of Wells Cathedral has two items, the hymn Praise to the Holiest in the Height, and Gibbons’ Drop, drop, slow tears, both of which are given with enough refinement and pleasing sweetness of tone to make the listener regret that they are given so little to do.

Likewise the Choir of St. Mary’s Church, Warwick: the bells which summon in Easter morning are from Warwick, and it falls to them to deliver the organist Barry Rose’s half-minute Easter Flourish, a kind of choral and organ fanfare to celebrate the risen Christ. But with the opening hymn and a short piece of plainchant by Byrd, that is all we hear of them, which is frustratingly little since we would like to confirm the feeling that this is another accomplished choir we would like to hear more of.

The majority of the programme is given by the Tewkesbury group, and their singing provides much pleasure. Certain of the pieces are quite demanding technically, and they give a good account of themselves in this respect. This is not, however, a disc which is meant to be listened to in a critical way, and little is gained by comparing this or that version of any particular piece. Better to listen to five or six at a time and submit to the atmosphere and momentum created.

The disc is arranged, as it were, chronologically, with music relating to Lent at the beginning and the more joyous pieces celebrating the Resurrection at the end. The inclusion of the two anthems by Purcell is therefore easier to explain in this context, placed as they are near the beginning of the recital: two passionate entreaties to God, on the one hand, that he might hear our prayer, and on the other, asking forgiveness for our sins. Both are well sung. In the same spirit is John Mudd’s Let thy merciful ears, a beautiful, austere prayer and not to be missed. Lotti’s Crucifixus is staple fare, of course, but no less welcome for that, a marvellous piece. John Ireland’s Ex Ore Innocentium and Casals’ O Vos Omnes are commonly encountered in this company. The recital ends in a spirit of wholehearted rejoicing with the bells and the flourish already mentioned, as well as Charles Wood’s beautiful arrangement of This Joyful Eastertide making us smile in the same way that his arrangements of Christmas music do. On the other hand, Bairstow’s Lamentation is a long Anglican chant which blossoms a couple of times into a "Jerusalem" chorus but which, for this listener at least, more than outstays its welcome.

To summarise then, one or two items of dubious musical interest, several lovely things and a handful of minor masterpieces, generally well sung, often better than that, and well worth buying if this kind of anthology appeals to you.

William Hedley

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