Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Brilliant Classics

Evensong and Vespers from King’s

Psalm 50 [6:36]
George DYSON

Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in D [6:48]

Lord, Thou has been our Refuge [7:49]
Sebastian de VIVANCO

Magnificat octavi toni [11:33]
Francesco CAVALLI

Salve Regina [6:25]

Dum esset Rex
Psalm: Dixit Dominus
Antiphon: Laeva ejus
Psalm: Laudate Pueri Dominum
The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge/Stephen Cleobury
Recorded in the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, no dates given

Evensong is perhaps the most glorious service in the Anglican tradition, and who better to sing it than the choir of King’s College, Cambridge. For decades now this choir has remained practically unsurpassed in consistent quality. In many ways they set the standard by which every other Anglican choir is judged, and I believe rightly so. In this all too brief video performance, we see and hear the Choir of King’s sing some of the ‘greatest hits’ of Anglican Cathedral music, and some rather unusual music for the vespers service.

Although there is nothing about the performances on this disc that is anything less than stellar, I felt, after watching, that I had been cheated out of everything but dessert. First of all, Vespers and Evensong are evening services, and we see King’s Chapel completely resplendent in broad daylight, presumably so that the eye of the camera could take advantage of the wonderful stained glass in its full glory. Secondly, these are not services; rather we only get the choral music from the services. How nice and interesting it would have been to have actually heard the lessons and the hymns, seen the stately processions, and have been made a part of all of the glorious ritual that is Anglican worship. It was rather like being dealt an opera highlights disc where all the text that truly advanced the plot had been excised.

The camera work left a bit to be desired as well. For nearly an hour we go in circles from one chorister to another, with a few good-looking favorites making rather frequent appearances. And why could we not have had a gander at the organist and his mighty console? Instead, we see the pipes of the façade each time the organ has a solo passage. It got a little predictable and monotonous.

But what of the singing? Oh my! This is choral technique at its very finest. There was perfect blend, impeccable enunciation, and complete ensemble. Mr. Cleobury is a master of this style, and he has trained his choir to operate as a finely tuned musical machine. There is no lack of expression either. Each phrase is beautifully shaped; each rise and fall of the musical line is measured out with loving care. The boys sing with a pure sweetness that is never shrill, and the adult male voices provide a substantial foundation while never overpowering.

The repertoire is standard fare for any faithful Anglican, Dyson’s evening service in D major being one of the staples of the choral tradition. The outstanding work is the splendid Magnificat setting by Sebastian de Vivanco. This is music of the most elegant construction, superb and mellifluous counterpoint and magnificent harmony. The work is given a stellar performance and is by far the highlight of this film.

Brilliant Classics have become well known in the last few years for their massive sets of very inexpensive CDs. On the whole, the reviews have been favorable. However, production values here are a bit skimped, especially since we get no notes on the music, and very little information about the recording: no dates, no personnel lists, etc. We do, thankfully, get a full set of texts, even for the pieces in English, and this is a welcome plus.

Doubtless this series of DVDs comes at a very compact price, so there is little to criticize about production, but one might also presume that these, like other Brilliant sources, might be licensed. Surely there is more information available to give to the buyer.

Do not, however, let these minor problems stop you from buying and enjoying this splendid ‘hour’ of music. Highly recommended.

Kevin Sutton

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.