Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


CD REVIEW

Some items
to consider

 


Enjoy the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra wherever you are. App available for iOS and Android


Mahler symphony 6 Nott


Vaughan Williams Symphony 3 etc.


Lyrita New Recording


Lyrita Premiere Recordings

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage


Decca Phase 4 - 40CDs


Judith Bailey, George Lloyd


BAX Orchestral pieces


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

 

 

 

AVAILABILITY

Palestrina Choir

 

 

Christmas with the Palestrina Choir
The Palestrina Choir, St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral Dublin/Blánaid Murphy
rec. St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland, January and May, 2008. DSD. 5.1 surround sound.
Booklet with texts and translations.
St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral Hybrid SACD71812221361 [73:31]
Experience Classicsonline


Christmas with the Palestrina Choir

Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-76) A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: Hodie Christus natus est [1:17]
Adeste fideles [4;11]
I Saw Three Ships [2:19]
Adolphe ADAM (1803-56) O Holy Night [5:25]
The Wexford Carol [5:42]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-47) Hark! The Herald Angels Sing [3:13]
Don Oíche Úd I mBeithil [2:31]
Benjamin BRITTEN A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: Bulalow [1:36]
Once in Royal David’s City [4:37]
Colin MAWBY (b.1936) Enjoy the World [1:59]
Make a Joyful Noise to the Lord [2:17]
In Dulci Jubilo [2:40]
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (c.1637-1707) Chorale Prelude: In Dulci Jubilo [2:21]
Suantraí na Maighdine [2:55]
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen [3:19]
Ding Dong Merrily on High [1:33]
Away in a Manger [2:48]
Oíche Nollag [2:35]
Benjamin BRITTEN A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: This Little Babe [1:39]
The First Nowell [5:26]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Chorale Prelude: In dir ist Freude [2:40]
Fintan O’Carroll Sunatraí ár Slánaitheora [2:23]
Benjamin BRITTEN A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: Deo Gracias (Adam lay i-bounden) [1:15]
Franz GRUBER Silent Night [3:15]
Rorate Cæli [3:23]

To excite the critical faculties, a Christmas CD needs to have some special appeal. Of the recordings which I’ve reviewed this year, for example, Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band (Saydisc CD-SDL366) present the music on their CD with such gusto that I haven’t been able to get some of their performances out of my head, while Christmas with the Tallis Scholars (Gimell CDGIM202) is all that you’d expect it to be from this superb ensemble. The Palestrina Choir is the resident choir of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Dublin, but, apart from the authoritative sound of their name, this CD doesn’t have much in the way of special appeal.

You might say that the backbone of this programme is formed by the four excerpts from Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols (tracks 1, 8, 19 and 23) interspersed throughout it, the sinews the traditional carols which, presumably, are meant to be its main selling point, and the flesh the less familiar items, chiefly the traditional Irish carols, sung in Gaelic, and the new works by Colin Mawby (tr. 10 and 11) and Fintan O’Carroll (tr. 22). I should have liked more information about these two – the booklet contains texts only, with no other notes apart from recording dates and the like; we aren’t given so much as the composers’ dates. I couldn’t even find mention of the total timing, though, at nearly 74 minutes, the producers have no need to hide their light under a bushel.

In fact, you’ll find that there is a good deal on the web about Colin Mawby – he even has a Wikipedia article. What help make this recording special are his arrangements of well-known carols and his own original compositions. Born in 1936, he was Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral, where he built on and extended the achievements of his mentor George Malcolm. Isn’t it about time that some of Malcolm’s pioneering recordings, of the likes of Palestrina, were restored to the catalogue? Mawby’s version of I saw three ships (tr.3) sounds rather like John Rutter – though not quite so individual; I don’t mean to imply that it sounds derivative. It goes with a real swing as performed here.

I was pleased to hear Mawby’s two original works here – the ethereal Enjoy the World and Make a Joyful Noise – and they are pretty well performed by the boys’ voices. The spirit of Benjamin Britten is not far from these pieces, though they never sound imitative.

Fintan O’Carroll doesn’t warrant a Wikipedia article but there are some references to him on the web and you can download some of his music, including his 1982 Celtic Alleluia. His Sunatraí ár Slánaitheora (Lullaby of our Saviour) is an attractive lullaby, with clear Celtic influences; like the Mawby pieces, it’s well sung here.

If you want the items from Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, you’d be better going for a complete recording which offers all the items in sequence; only about a third of the work is contained here and Britten’s carefully thought out sequence is thereby disrupted.

In fact, too, I was less than impressed by the somewhat tentative singing of the opening item from the Ceremony, Hodie puer natus est. The boys’ tone is no match for that of the best English cathedral choirs; neither the diction nor the rhythm is as firm as, for example, that on the complete performance by the Christ Church, Oxford, Cathedral Choir – not currently available but well worth looking out for in its earlier incarnations on ASV CDQS6030 or CDWHL2097. This opening piece from the Ceremony is usually sung as a processional and a capella, but here there is no sense of the voices entering from the distance and the singers need to be helped by a rather obtrusive accompaniment. If you particularly want the Ceremony sung by a Roman Catholic choir, go for Westminster Cathedral version on Hyperion CDA66220. Alternatively, my colleague Dominy Clements particularly recommended the Finchley Children’s Music Group, with Noyes Fludde, on Somm SOMMCD212 – see review.

Perhaps this music is just too well known for anything but the very best; I was much more impressed by the boys’ singing in the less well known items. As far as the Britten items are concerned, by the time that we get to Deo gracias on track 23, the boys’ singing has greatly improved, though both they and the harp accompaniment still sound a little backward.

The other out-of-the-ordinary pieces here are the arrangements of traditional Irish works by David Mooney (The Wexford Carol, tr.5, Don Oíche Úd I mBeithil, The Story of that Night in Bethlehem, tr.7 and Suantraí na Maighdine, The Virgin’s Lullaby, tr.14) and Raymond O’Donnell (Oíche Nollag, The Night is Lit, tr.18). The Wexford Carol receives a decent, but by no means exceptional performance and this is true of the other Mooney and O’Donnell pieces, except that track 7 is particularly beautiful and the singing on track 14 is some of the best on the whole CD.

Otherwise, the standard items receive perfectly acceptable performances, though nothing special to offset the fact that there are so many very decent recordings of this material in all price ranges – some of it even from Roman Catholic choirs – The First Nowell (Griffin GCCD4031) Adeste Fideles (Hyperion CDA66668) and Christmas Vespers (CDA67522) from Westminster Cathedral, for starters.

Rather illogically, Buxtehude’s Prelude on In dulci jubilo follows the singing of that piece – shouldn’t a prelude actually precede? I’d have liked a bit more oomph, too, at times in the singing of this piece, though it’s otherwise very acceptable and the organist - David Grealy, acknowledged in very small print at the end of the booklet - plays the prelude well. Even more oddly, this Christmas collection ends where it should have begun with the Advent prose Rorate cæli, ‘Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above.’

With rather tentative rendering of the plainchant, this final track ends the recording on a less than auspicious note. I hate to be negative about boys’ voices; I’m sure you’d be more than happy to hear these singers at the main Latin Mass on Sunday morning, but they just don’t pass muster on a record of Christmas music when there is so much better on offer.

Full marks, though, to the solo treble in Once in Royal David’s City; he makes a good fist of a piece in which even the chosen soloist at the King’s College, Cambridge, Christmas Eve Service of Lessons and Carols usually sounds a trifle shaky. You wouldn’t expect an earth-shaking performance from the probationers in Away in a manger but it’s certainly much better sung than most children of this age could manage.

The recorded sound is very acceptable, though the choir sound a little backward in places, especially when the trebles are singing on their own, at least as heard in stereo.

I began by saying that a Christmas recording has to be special. Unless you particularly want a Christmas recording in surround sound or are especially keen to acquire the modern pieces which I have singled out, or want a souvenir of the choir – you may know one of the choristers or probationers, for example – I’m not sure what the special appeal of this recording might be.

Brian Wilson


 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools




Return to Review Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.