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The Spirit Of The Lord
Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)

Three Motets - 4-8vv. a capella, Op.38 (pub. 1905)
(1. Justorum animae [3"30']; 2. Coelos ascendit hodie [2"01']; 3. Beati quorum via [3"25'])
Six Bible Songs - 1v. and Organ, Op.113 (1909): 4. A Song of Peace [4"29']
Six Hymns, Op.118 (pub.1910): 5. Pray that Jerusalem may have peace [2"04']
Service in A, Op.12. - Chorus and Organ (1880): 6. Magnificat [5"58']; 7. Nunc dimittis [5"12']
Anthem - Chorus and Organ, Op.145 (1914): 8. For lo, I raise up [7"52']
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)

The Light of Life - Oratorio, Op.29 (1896)
(9. Light of the World - Choir and Organ [3"59']; 10. Seek him that maketh the seven stars - Male voices and Organ [8"06']; 11. Doubt not thy Father's care - Trebles and Organ [2"27']
The Apostles - Oratorio, Op.49 (1902-03): 12. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me - Choir and Organ [6"38']
Anthem - Choir and Organ, Op.74 (1914): 13. Give unto the Lord [8"18']
Manchester Cathedral Choir/Christopher Stokes.
Organ: Jeffrey Makinson.
Recorded in Manchester Cathedral, 23-25 June 2003.
LAMMAS LAMM 163D [64"06']


 

It is quite some time since I last heard Manchester Cathedral Choir, maybe twenty years, and that was on Choral Evensong. Certainly the sound they produce now is a great improvement on that time, and the credit for this must go to Christopher Stokes. Even so the disc is uneven, the Stanford coming off much better than the Elgar, and sounding much more to the choir's liking and capabilities - or is it heresy to suggest that the former was the better composer in these types of works at least?

The three anthems, and Beati quorum via in particular, are well known and receive sound performances. Coelos ascendit in particular suits the ambience of this venue and has a very justifiable rejoicing tone. The wonderful Evening Service in A also benefits from an excellent organ accompaniment and good firm singing. The solo item of A Song of Peace is given to the full trebles - surely there are girls' voices here? - and very nicely sung, though one could quibble about the lack of Ds and Ts at the end of words. The hymn and final anthem in this part are sympathetically, and where necessary, joyfully sung.

The Elgar pieces are a very different matter. Admittedly they were written for much larger forces than here available, and for orchestral rather than organ accompaniment, but there seems here a certain hesitancy, one could almost say insecurity, in the performances. The extracts from "The Light of Life" are the worst affected, with the treble offering the most successful. "The Spirit of the Lord" is of course the prologue to "The Apostles" and receives a decent enough rendition but without the enthusiasm from the choir which is so evident in the Stanford. "Give unto the Lord", being a full blown anthem, has probably the best of the singing, but is marred by the trebles’ tendency to sing flat.

John Portwood



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