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Matins for Ascension Day
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908–1992)
Majesté du Christ
(L’Ascenscion) [6.59] (1)
Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)
Coelos Ascendit
[1.54]
John READING (d. 1692)
Preces and Responses

Jonathan BATTISHILL (1738–1801)
Venite
[2.46]
Joseph BARNBY (1838–1896)
Psalm 24 [2.44]
Thomas DUPUIS (1733–1796)
Psalm 47 [2.14]
John IRELAND (1879–1962)
Te Deum and Benedictus in F [11.53]
Gerald FINZI (1901-1956)
God is gone up
[5.12] (2)
Jeremiah CLARKE (1669–1707)
The head that once was crowned with thorns
[2.22]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908–1992)
Transports de Joie
[4.05] (1)
Disc also includes spoken passages and prayers from Matins service
The Choir of Lincoln Cathedral/Colin Walsh
Colin Walsh (organ) (1); Andrew Post (organ); James Vivian (organ) (2)
rec. 25 May, 16-17 June 1993.
PRIORY PRCD5028 [60.46]
Experience Classicsonline


Recording the music for a Matins or an Evensong service can be a little tricky as there is not enough to fill a complete disc and the various parts can seem a little disparate. The Choir of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, solved the problem on the Ascension Day Evensong CD, by concentrating on contemporary pieces associated with the Cathedral and finishing with a complete performance of Messiaen’s L’Ascenscion.
 
On this 1993 recording Lincoln Cathedral took a different route and opted to record a complete Matins service, including the spoken bits. This is a striking solution to the problem, but one which leaves the CD mid-way between various categories. Someone wanting a recording of, say Ireland’s Te Deum and Benedictus in F, might not want to acquire a disc which includes a substantial amount of spoken word.
 
For the recording, Priory have not quite solved the balance problems which this type of service generates. The overall recorded sound is pretty naturalistic with the listener placed so that the choir is beautifully clear but the unnamed minister is rather distant and you have to concentrate somewhat to hear the words of the lessons.
 
The disc opens and closes with Colin Walsh playing Messiaen, but the remainder of the disc is devoted to English music from a variety of periods.
 
The choir’s first item is Stanford’s lively double choir Coelos Ascendit from the three motets which Stanford wrote for Trinity College. The motet is perhaps, not as subtle or sophisticated as Beati Quorum from the same group, though I found Walsh and the choir gave a remarkably light and airy performance. Perhaps this is because I am used to hearing it sung by bigger choirs. Lincoln Cathedral Choir is comparatively small: there are 14 boy trebles, 3 altos, 3 tenors and 4 basses. This is not exactly a large group for singing double choir music and this makes the choir’s achievement all the better.
 
The choir sing three psalms, to Anglican chants by Battishill, Barnby and Dupuis. The responses are by John Reading thus the choir cover a remarkable chunk of 17th, 18th and 19th century English liturgical music. The choir’s chant singing is not the most sophisticated on record, but they are alive to the words and convey the psalms pretty well. If I heard these performances during a Matins or Evensong service I would be quite impressed. Reading was an organist at Lincoln and thus his Responses are the only pieces on the disc which would seem to have a direct link to the Cathedral.
 
Ireland’s Te Deum and Benedictus in F were written when he was still organist at St. Luke’s Church, Chelsea. They are attractive, well made pieces which succeed without ever falling into the category of his major works.
 
Finzi’s God is Gone up would seem to me to be in entirely a different category and here it is given a very fine performance. Though, if you are looking for this piece especially then it would seem far more sensible to buy the admirable Naxos disc of Finzi choral music from St. John’s College Cambridge.
 
Inevitably, there has to be a hymn, and Lincoln include Jeremiah Clarke’s lovely and short The head that once was crowned with thorns.

This is an admirable disc and one which will appeal to lovers of Matins and supporters of Lincoln Cathedral Choir. The choir has a lively sound and good attack and their performances are fine, though occasionally there is unevenness in the ensemble. Though these are not billed as live recordings, they have a live, off-the-cuff feel which is entirely in keeping with the recording of a service. You really do feel as if you are eavesdropping on a service at the Cathedral.
 
Robert Hugill
 


 


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