According to the names given in the
booklet that accompanies this CD the
choir of Lincoln Cathedral consists
of fifteen boy trebles, four each of
male altos and tenors and five basses.
In addition it has a girlsí choir numbering
nineteen singers. The note about the
choir implies that the girls sing at
services with the men but that the trebles
and girls donít sing at the same time.
The reason that I mention this is because,
though I stand to be corrected, I have
the distinct impression that on this
disc both the trebles and the girls
sing together. The plainchant antiphon
Virgo prudentissima is,
I think, sung by the boys alone while
the girls sing the other antiphon, Hodie
Maria Virgo. I mention this because
although the choir makes a very pleasing
sound it does come across, at least
as recorded, as somewhat treble heavy.
Itís appropriate that
this choir should present a CD of music
inspired by the Blessed Virgin for she
is the patron saint of the cathedral.
Itís a well-chosen and nicely varied
programme. I particularly approve of
the decision to sing short plainchant
antiphons on either side of the Magnificat
settings by Praetorius and Tavener.
This is in accordance with the liturgical
practice of the Roman Catholic Church
though one doesnít hear it done all
that often in Anglican foundations.
However, itís the practice to do this
at Lincoln Cathedral on major feasts
and itís nice that theyíve followed
that rubric here.
Both the aforementioned
Magnificat settings are well done. That
by Praetorius displays good choral discipline
but there is also enthusiasm in the
singing. The challenging setting by
Tavener is, I think, slightly less successful.
I dug out a Hyperion recording by the
choir of St. Georgeís Chapel, Windsor.
In that version more dynamic contrast
is evident - and the fact that the Windsor
choir is less closely balanced than
the Lincoln singers probably helps too.
More importantly, the Windsor choir
is better balanced Ė perhaps there are
fewer singers on the treble line? Ė
so one hears much more of the important
The third setting of
the Magnificat, by Wayne Marshall, was
completely new to me. One of several
pieces on this disc thatís scored for
trebles only. Itís attractive and melodious
but it doesnít break any new ground
and didnít strike me as a particularly
memorable piece. However, Iím sure these
young singers found it very enjoyable;
their performance certainly sounds fresh
I liked Andrew Carterís
gentle Maryís Magnificat in which
we hear a good treble soloist and I
was delighted that Griegís exquisite
Ave Maris Stella was included.
So far as Iím aware Grieg didnít write
much liturgical music. Indeed, this
is the only composition by him of which
I know in that genre. Every time I hear
this little gem of a piece I wish heíd
written more such music. The Lincoln
choir does it well.
They are also very
successful in Brucknerís splendid motet.
I was particularly impressed with the
dynamic gradations in the thrice-repeated
and dramatic cries of "Jesu"
part way through. Itís a small point,
maybe, but Iíve heard many other choirs
do this short but important passage
less well and I think itís symptomatic
of the care thatís gone into the preparation
of the whole recital.
The Bruckner is one
of the pieces thatís conducted by the
cathedralís Assistant Director of Music,
Charles Harrison. He also accompanies
several of the other items. Heís given
his chance to shine in two organ solos,
by Langlais and Flor Peeters. The Langlais
piece, which dates from 1978, is based
on plainchant. As is the case with the
Duruflé Requiem this Langlais
work retains all the rhythmical and
metrical freedom of chant but twentieth
century textures and harmonies are added
to the mix. Harrison does this piece
well but reserves his best for the Flor
Peeters work that closes the disc. This
is a superb work and itís stunningly
performed ... and recorded. This work,
and Harrisonís registrations, exploit
splendidly the full range of the cathedralís
Father Willis organ, which sounds to
be in excellent condition. The final
ĎHymneí section is thunderously majestic.
This is a most enjoyable
programme. Apart from my reservation
about the choral balance, which to my
ears favours the trebles too much, the
standard of singing is very good. In
any case other listeners may not feel
as I do about the balance. There are
brief notes and full texts and translations
and all the documentation is in English
and German. The sound quality is good,
conveying nicely the ambience of the
cathedral and reporting the choir very
well and the organ solos magnificently.
See also review by Colin