Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Lo, the full, final sacrifice – music commissioned for St. Matthews, Northampton
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)

Rejoice in the Lamb (1943) [17’47]
Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1989)

A Festival Anthem (1945) [14’17]
Gerald FINZI (1901-1956)

Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice (1946) [15’50]
Richard Rodney BENNETT (b.1936)

Five Carols (There is no rose; Out of your sleep; That young child; Sweet was the son; Susani). (1967) [12’24]
Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929-1988)

Let all the World in every Corner Sing (1965) [3’31]
St. Albans Abbey Girls Choir; Lay Clerks of St. Albans Cathedral Choir
Simon Johnson (conductor)
James McVinnie (organ)
Recorded in St. Albans Cathedral and Abbey Church, 17-20 Feb. 2003 DDD

This is an extremely well planned and executed programme. All the music featured relates to commissions from St.Matthews, Northampton, mainly at the behest of the famous Canon Walter Hussey, an influential figure in the arts and responsible for some of our best choral music. Though much of it is available in fine alternative recordings, this disc makes for a good ‘straight through’ listen and some, like me, may make real discoveries along the way.

The best of those discoveries was the marvellous Berkeley Festival Anthem. From its exciting and substantial organ introduction, this is choral writing in the best Anglican tradition. One senses the presence of Britten (hardly surprising), as well as Howells and Stanford, particularly in the glorious treble solo around 6’16, but this is individual writing, using slightly jazzy inflections to spice up the sumptuous harmonies and give the piece real variety and contrast.

Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb is an inspired setting of words by Christopher Smart, and receives a performance at once tender and bold. From the hushed opening unison through to the memorable close, the choir and conductor show great understanding of Britten’s unique sound-world, giving a rendition as good as any I’ve come across. Separate banding for the individual sections would have been useful, but the absence of this layout does not spoil the enjoyment.

The Finzi setting that gives the CD its title is also a substantial 15-minute work. Again we have a composer inspired by the commission to write individually but with a great tradition in mind. The choir and conductor respond superbly, giving a performance full of vitality and colour. The same goes for the Bennett settings, quirky and original little gems. Kenneth Leighton’s gloriously exuberant setting of ‘Let all the World’ is one of his best known short pieces, and the choir cope well with its not inconsiderable difficulties, particularly the jazzy syncopations which became such a stylistic thumbprint. A special word of praise here, too, for organist James McVinnie, who takes the tricky organ part in his stride.

The recording is well judged, with a difficult acoustic suitably tamed by the engineers without losing bloom or detail. The conductor supplies the very personal but illuminating notes, and my only real cavil in an otherwise very recommendable issue, is a lack of texts, so crucial in the less well-known items.

Tony Haywood

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