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Hail Mary
John TAVENER (b. 1944)

Hymn to the Mother of God (1985) [2'31]. Magnificat (1986) Ė Collegium Regale [7'12].
Hieronymous PRAETORIUS (1560-1629)

Magnificat: Tone V à 8* [8'04].
TRADITIONAL, arr. Edgar PETTMANN (1866-1943)

The Angel Gabriel [2'38].
Andrew CARTER (b. 1939)

Mary's Magnificat (1986) [3'22].
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Ave Maria (1860) [3'05].
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)

Ave Maris Stella, CW156/2 (1899) [3'39].
Giovanni Batista PERGOLESI (1710-1736)

Stabat Mater (1736) - Stabat Mater dolorosa [3'14].
Jean LANGLAIS (1907-1991)

Triptique grégorienne (1978) Ė Rosa mystica [4'30].
Wayne MARSHALL (b. 1961)

Magnificat in C [3'35].
Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)

Ave Maria* [3'17].
Maurice DURUFLÉ (1902-1986)

Tota pulchra es, Maria, Op. 10 No. 2 (1960) [2'22].

There is no rose of such virtue* [4'04].
Flor PEETERS (1903-1986)

Toccata, Fugue et Hymne sur Ave Maris Stella, Op. 28 (1931) [8'19].
Plainchant: Virgo prudentissima* [1'00 + 1'01]; Hodie Maria Virgo [0'33 + 0'33].
Lincoln Cathedral Choir/Aric Prentice
*Charles Harrison (organ).
rec. Lincoln Cathedral, 31 Jan, 1, 3 Feb 2005. DDD
GUILD GMCD7291 [64'22]

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 underneath parts.

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 and cheerful.

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.

John Quinn

See also review by Colin Clarke



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