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Sixty Glorious Years: A Concert of 19th Century British Music
Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900) Jubilee Hymn: O King of Kings
John HULLAH (1812-1884) Three fishers went sailing
Alexander MACKENZIE (1847-1935) Dormi, Jesu (The Virgin's Cradle Hymn)
William STERNDALE BENNETT (1816-1875) No.2 of Three Romances Op. 14
Robert PEARSALL (1795-1856) O who will o'er the downs so free? [Chorus]
Philip ARMES (1836-1901) Victoria [Madrigal]
John HATTON (1809-1886) To Anthea
Michael BALFE (1800-1880) When I beheld the anchor weigh'd
John GOSS (1800-1880) If we believe that Jesus died
Brinley RICHARDS (1817-1885) Pastorale
PRINCE ALBERT (1819-1861) Grüss an den Bruder (Does my brother think of me?)
George MACFARREN (1813-1887) Pack clouds away
Walter CARROLL (1869-1955) The Stars; Nature
Walter MACFARREN (1826-1905) L'Amitié
Micahel BALFE (1800-1880) The Sands of Dee
Maude WHITE (1855-1937) To Mary
Henry BISHOP (786-1855) Home! Sweet Home!
George MARTIN (1844-1916) Short Festival Te Deum
Katy Morrell (soprano); Phillida Bannister (contralto); Campbell Russell (tenor); Fiona Murphy (cello); Wilfred Goddard (clarinet); Ian Wass (organ); John Talbot, (piano)
The Midlands Chorale/Robert Williams
Recorded at Tettenham College, Wolverhampton, November 1997
BRITISH MUSIC SOCIETY BMS422CD [75.14]


AVAILABILITY

BMS, 7 Tudor Gardens, Upminster, Essex RM14 3DE]

We infrequently come across new recordings of vintage 19th Century songs, ballads and hymns so this CD is a rare and admirable find. Linked to a concert performance in celebration of the centenary year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, we sample the music of some forgotten composers. Here the mixture is wide and allows one to learn something of their styles.

The ballads, To Anthea and When I beheld the anchor, are both delightful and well suit Campbell Russell's light lyrical tenor voice. The Balfe ballad comes from his first major opera, The Siege of La Rochelle (1835), an opera unjustly neglected.

For me, particular highlights of the disc are the piano pieces. Here delightful compositions of Sterndale Bennett, Romance; Brinley Richards, Pastorale and Walter Macfarren L'Amitie, have been unearthed. All are beautifully played by John Talbot on a piano with warm tone.

The Midlands Chorale sing with good harmony and strength in the soprano section. They are particularly well accomplished in their handling of the four-part chorus/madrigal by Pearson. Armes' madrigal would be more charming if there was more attention to dynamics. The opening track of Sullivan's Jubilee Hymn seems a good choice to set the historical scene. Though well sung it suffers from a certain lethargy brought about by its plodding tempo. This disappoints as an opening piece. I can understand the need to take hymns slowly in a cathedral setting, but where reverberation problems are not in evidence a more lively speed would be an advantage. Perhaps the other choral pieces and hymns on this disc are similarly a touch on the slow side for many listeners' liking.

The Martin Festival Te Deum is engaging and although Martin's organ accompaniment is unsophisticated the choir hold it together with a good pace. Martin is not well known and as only two other entries appear in the catalogue (for a hymn and psalm) this representation of his music is appreciated. Goss wrote many pieces of church music during his long life yet the sombre example chosen does not for me contain much of interest. Mackenzie's Dormi, Jesu, on the other hand, provides plenty of interest and is delivered by Phillida Bannister (contralto) accompanied by Fiona Murphy (cello0 and John Talbot (piano).

Of all the pieces that could have represented the works of Henry Bishop, Home Sweet Home seems an uninspired choice. This gentle and dreamy song is already well known from the BBC Proms. Perhaps one of his Shakespearean pieces, fresh to the ears, would have been more welcome.

The singers are accomplished and deliver the lyrics with fair sensitivity. The brief, yet useful, notes unfortunately omit to give any dates of composition and so the listener cannot make comparisons of style with period.

Raymond Walker

British Music Society

 



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