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Ascribe unto the Lord (1851) [12:57]
O give thanks unto the Lord [8:02]
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace (c.1850) [4:06]
Wash me thoroughly (c.1840) [4:20]
O God, whose nature (1831 revised 1870) [3:08]
Let us lift up our heart (c.1839) [18:35]
Blessed be the God and Father (c.1835) [7:05]
Cast me not away from Thy presence (1848) [4:28]
The Wilderness (1832) [12:22]
Clare College Cambridge/Christopher Robinson
James McVinnie (organ)
rec. St Michael’s Church, Tenbury, July 2006
NAXOS 8.570318 [75:14]
is a first class tonic. The Choir of Clare College Cambridge
now consists of women and includes ten sopranos. To ensure
uniform vocal quality counter-tenors are combined with the
(female) altos and this makes for a satisfying, full and
rich sound. Traditionalists may miss the flutier and purer
treble sound but I can certainly say that it didn’t concern
of these anthems are staples of the repertoire and though
other recordings offer fluent and well-balanced recitals
this one offers not only blended singing but also excellent
solos, sensitive organ contributions and a vividly lively
approach to the anthems. Ascribe unto the Lord for
example is a relatively long and involved setting which can
fragment when not controlled. Here it anything but fragments.
Note too Wesley’s naughty Handelian borrowings; the lines “The
Lord hath been mindful of us” is set to one of Handel’s Op.1
Violin Sonatas, itself probably a self-borrowing.
mentioned the fine solo singing. There’s an example of that
quality in O give thanks unto the Lord with its powerful
aria-like purpose and lyric gifts. It’s invidious to mention
individual choir members, because three take outstanding
solos, but I shall add that the soprano here is Philippa
Boyle. Don’t overlook, amidst my comments regarding Christopher
Robinson’s energetic and forward-moving direction, that the
choir can sing very softly and with great precision – this
anthem in particular ends with a most deft example of control.
wilt keep him in perfect peace is
a compact and beautifully eloquent piece and receives an
appropriately beautiful reading. Readers will want to know
that Let us lift up our heart – that big and involving
setting with an important role for baritone George Humphreys
in Thou, O Lord God – reprises the same qualities
of sensitivity and power that inform the entire selection.
The contrast between full and women’s voices in the central
section of The Wilderness is splendidly realised.
In fact the performances are uniformly excellent throughout.
Michael’s Church, Tenbury has an intimate acoustic – lines
aren’t smudged or lost as they might be in a bigger and more
resonant building ensuring that the setting is appropriate
for these anthems. The booklet includes full texts and enjoyable
notes. I’ll end as I began and call this a real tonic.
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