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