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Let us lift up our heart - 19th Century Church Music
Samuel Sebastian WESLEY
Let us lift up our heart [18:09]
Sir John STAINER
I Saw the Lord* [6:59]
Sir John GOSS
The Wilderness* [9:08]
If We Believe that Jesus died* [3:48]
Sir Frederick OUSELEY
O Saviour of the World* [2:25]
Sir John STAINER
How Beautiful upon the Mountains [2:48]
Thomas WALMISLEY
Remember O Lord [13:12]
Samuel Sebastian WESLEY
Cast Me Not Away [5:03]
Henry SMART
Magnificat in G* [5:45]
Nunc Dimittis* [3:43]
Chichester Cathedral Choir/Alan Thurlow; John Birch (trs 7, 8)
Jeremy Suter (organ)
Ian Fox (organ) (trs 7, 8)
rec. Chichester Cathedral, 1976, ADD (trs. 7; 8); * 1984. DDD
GRIFFIN GCCD 4059 [71.04] 

 


This is a re-issue of recordings made in a bygone era. Not because Chichester haven’t bothered to record anything since, but presumably because these first appeared in vinyl and/or cassette format. Recording and editing techniques have improved vastly in the last two or three decades, and the remastering of these recordings has certainly come up trumps. That said, some quite audible ambient noise remains in places.

The curious aspect of this CD is the organ. Continued problems with the cathedral’s pipe organ in the first half of the twentieth century brought about the temporary abandonment of the instrument between 1973 and 1986.  During this time, the services were accompanied by an Allen electronic organ, and it is this instrument that can be heard on this CD. Most cathedrals would wait until their pipe organ was up and running again before making a recording. Not so here – evidence perhaps that the Chichester Choir was at a peak at this time.

There are some familiar and less familiar works represented on this disc. The opening track from which the disc takes its name, is a marathon anthem which is rarely performed these days – not surprising given that it takes almost twenty minutes! And it’s twenty minutes of standard Victorian fare that centres around a baritone solo which is executed most stylishly.

The beginning of I Saw the Lord, one of the most grandiose and exciting starts to any anthem is quite pathetic here – the electronic timbre of the organ sounds just awful, and the choir sound as if only half of them have turned up. This piece needs plenty of ‘oomph’ from organ and choir and sadly it’s conspicuous by its absence here.

The lay vicars are superb, especially the counter-tenors. An extended passage for ATB in The Wilderness demonstrates the generally excellent blend between the lower parts, as does Remember O Lord.

The treble sound is a bit thin but perfectly pleasant throughout, although in How Beautiful upon the Mountains they aren’t quite blended and sound a little bit plummy, especially in the exposed opening phrase. The long and complex Remember O Lord features a delightful treble solo and has an exciting finish.

For me, Cast Me Not Away is a highlight of the disc, and not just because it is unaccompanied, thus avoiding the Allen organ but because the singing is nicely controlled and well paced, doing justice to the handsomely crafted work. Quite stunning. Curiously enough Ian Fox is credited with playing the organ on tracks 7 and 8, an unfortunate mistake in the sleeve-notes. 

A Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis by Henry Smart brings up the rear of this Victorian choral fest. Whilst there are better settings from this period it certainly brings the CD to a rousing and satisfyingly contrapuntal conclusion.

Max Kenworthy

 

 


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