The Westminster Cathedral Choir have assembled
a collection of relatively modern yet traditional-sounding music
for this rather skimpy and not particularly well-performed program.
Colin Mawby’s rich
Ave verum corpus opens the disc. Although this is a rather
attractive work, the choir spoils its grandeur when the men
insist on shouting instead of singing. The tone is so raucous
and harsh that it ruins any attempt by the listener to meditate
on the body of Christ. At the climax the tenor section that
hammers in like a jet engine obliterates any sense of an upward
sweep of emotion or an opulent wash of sound, most egregiously.
Doctrine of Wisdom is sung better from a purely vocal
stance, but as this disc wore on I found that the Westminsterites
have two basic forms of expression: loud and soft. There is
no subtlety in the dynamic or color shadings, and only one timbre
that becomes dull in minutes.
Two works from the
mystical one-trick pony team of Tavener and Pärt are well enough
performed, but the music itself is a crashing bore, repetitive
to a fault and so static in harmonic language and lacking in
rhythmic drive that any sublimity one might feel in the opening
bars quickly gives way to numbing sleep induction.
By far and away,
the best two works on the disc are Rubbra’s Dominican Mass
and the lovely Salve Regina by Herbert Howells, who occasionally
put aside his Anglicanism to write in Latin for the Romans.
The Mass is actually quite well sung and is remarkable for the
clarity of its text settings and its delicious harmonies. The
Howells suffers from less that clear enunciation and the overbearing
singing of the adult men.
Hit and miss music
with a more miss than hit performance. The total timing is also
woefully short. One would think that this choir would have an
extra piece or two in its repertoire to fill out the disc. The
Rubbra is excellent, but hardly enough to recommend the entire