Short playing time here so what is on
offer to overcome the natural inclination
to walk on by?
For a start this anthology
has the feeling of a seasonal collection
with the poignant fragrance of Christmas,
of carols and of the mysteries.
The site has reviewed
Dan Locklair's orchestral music before
now. Here we hear his Brief Mass for
double chorus a cappella. It
is beautifully laid out and performed
with every indication of scrupulous
care. The idiom is plain and unadorned
yet with the spiritual North fixed firmly
in Medieval England. The music reminded
me of the clearer less densely harmonic
moments in Herbert Howells' church music.
Then again the life and rhythmic surge
of this music recalls the choral writing
of the Welsh composer William Mathias
and of Geoffrey Bush. The AMENs
in the Credo sound as if they
have been written by a composer who
has heard the AMENs in Janáček's
Glagolytic Mass. The sweetly-spun
rafter-ringing Sanctus links
with John Rutter's Gloria and
Requiem. It is a lovely piece
and should be taken up by cathedral
and church choral directors the world
over. Locklair's Pater Noster is
in much the same accessible style.
As far as I am aware
Piston's Prelude and Allegro for
strings here receives its premiere recording.
The Prelude has the composure
of a saint and the pulse and manner
of a Finzi miniature for strings. Piston
and Judith Hancock coax flames from
the keyboard for the lightning stunning
allegro. The strings add a Tippett
and Finzi thunder to the organ's exultation.
Despite its two part structure the work
is presented in a single track: pity!
The Place of the Blest is a little
cantata for treble voices. It sets texts
by Robert Herrick and Richard Wilbur.
Rather like the Locklair I thought more
than once of Rutter and Finzi again.
The flute pours out is benediction on
the gracious in The Carol of the
Rose first movement. The Pelican
is a lively carol and its imagery
recalls the touching Funeral March
of the Sparrow in Vaughan Williams’
Five Tudor Portraits. The
Place of the Blest opens with a
long and placid bassoon cantilena -
a beautiful piece, poignantly speaking
of a heavenly realm. The dancing wax
and wane of the Alleluia is intertwined
most tellingly with the voices of oboe
and flute. Not once does Thompson put
a foot wrong in a movement whose only
text is the word alleluia.
The notes provided
by Koch are extensive and the sung texts
are printed in full.
Short commons then
- short even for an LP but the music
here could well make someone's Christmas
- every track is a discovery. It should
be heard by all open-minded choral directors.
The Randall Thompson has a grave and
gracious beauty and the Locklair has
the makings of a modern classic. The
Piston will please everyone and is well
chosen to match and intensify the surrounding