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Passiontide: Music for Solace and Reflection
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847) Hear my prayer [11.05]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) O taste and see [1.26]
Peter HURFORD (1930-) Litany to the Holy Spirit (Herrick) [3.33]
Samuel WESLEY (1810-1876) Wash me throughly [4.04]
Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710-1736) Stabat Mater [10.17]
William BYRD (1543-1623) Civitas sancti tui [3.54]
J.S.BACH (1685-1750): O sacred head sore wounded; Bist du bei mir [5.04]
Pablo CASALS (1876-1973) O vos omnes [3.27]
Antonio LOTTI (1667-1740) Crucifixus [2.55]
Richard DERING (1580-1630) O bone Jesu [3.17]
Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625) Drop, drop, slow tears [1.21]
John IRELAND (1879-1962) Ex ore innocentium [3.14]
Maurice GREENE (1696-1755) Lord, let me know mine end [5.17]
Edward MILLER (1735-1807) When I survey the wondrous cross [3.22]
Emily Gray (soprano); Claire Buckley (soprano)
Manchester Cathedral Choir/Christopher Stokes (director/organ); Jeffrey Makinson (organ)
Recorded at Manchester Cathedral January-Febuary 2002
NAXOS 8.557025 [62.16]

As a showcase for the well-trained voices of Emily Gray (BBC Radio 2 Choir Girl of the year 2000-2001) and Claire Buckley this selection shows both singers striving to meet the stylistic demands of titbits from the 16th to the 20th centuries. Sometimes, considering the odds, they succeed very well. All the pieces are arranged for soloists, choir and organ, though they require very differing resources. For example these include boys’ voices and various instruments, particularly strings. Authenticity aside, for composers with such differing stylistic demands as Bach, Vaughan Williams, Byrd and Antonio Lotti, the formula remains the same: an over-zealous choir and a Hymns Ancient and Modern organ accompaniment. With sixteen boys and girls from Chetham’s School of Music plus nine lusty lay clerks an imbalance between tenors and the higher voices in the choir is apparent from the start. In the first item, Mendelssohn’s Hear my prayer this defect remains troublesome in Manchester Cathedral’s lofty acoustic and remains as the programme continues. Emily Grey’s youthful, unforced soprano is in control throughout. Her sensitive musicianship and excellent diction bodes well for her future career.

Overall, however, this is a somewhat hand-me-down disc. I am no purist and have no objection to compilations or arrangements provided they have valid credentials, but after half an hour this disc was already beginning to outstay its welcome. The wide disparity of periods and styles make for a confection that might bring the promised ‘solace and reflection’ to some, but does not satisfy the musical criteria of most of the items included.

Roy Brewer

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