The Choir of Trinity College, from University of Melbourne has
built their reputation performing sacred music of the Anglican
Cathedral tradition. This disc offers us a selection of anthems,
motets, songs, folk songs and includes the G minor Mass.
The Five Mystical Songs is performed in a version for baritone,
chorus and piano quintet. The inclusion of the optional chorus
here is thought likely to make this the first recording of this
was trying to uncover any possible connection with Vaughan
Williams to Melbourne University, the home of the Choir of
Trinity College. There is a link through Fritz Hart who for
many years was active as a composer, conductor and educator
in Melbourne. Hart was a trusted friend of Vaughan Williams,
a fellow student at the Royal College of Music (RCM)
in London and an enthusiastic member of the English folksong movement. A talented
group of students including Vaughan Williams, Hart, Edgar
Bainton, Thomas Dunhill, Gustav Holst, John Ireland and Evlyn
Howard-Jones would often meet at Wilkin’s, the Kensington tea shop, near the RCM.
However, there were never any formal links between
Hart and the University of Melbourne. He managed the Melbourne
Conservatorium (aka Albert Street Conservatorium) founded
by George Marshall-Hall, the first Ormond Professor at Melbourne
University. The Conservatorium could be actually described
as a rival establishment as it effectively split from the
University in 1901. Soprano Dame Nellie Melba, a close friend
of Hart, caused a surprise when she chose to teach with Hart
at the Albert Street Conservatorium instead of Melbourne University.
This was a position she kept from 1915 until her death in
opening track is O Clap Your Hands a jubilant motet
performed here in its original ceremonial scoring for chorus,
organ, brass and percussion. A setting of Psalm 47, verses
1, 2, 5-9, Vaughan Williams completed the score around 1920.
The Choir of Trinity College is joined by the Australian Chamber
Brass Ensemble and organ to produce a wonderful and dramatic
effect. Probably the best known version of
O Clap Your Hands is in the scoring for chorus
and orchestra performed by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge
and the English Chamber Orchestra directed by Sir David Willcocks.
Recorded in the King’s College Chapel in
1966, the moving and exultant singing makes this an evergreen
performance on a disc of classic status. The coupling comprises
Vaughan Williams’s Five Mystical Songs
and major works from Holst and Finzi with renowned tenor Wilfred
Brown on EMI Classics CDM5655882.
Taste and See is a very brief motet marked Andante
sostenuto. It is performed here in its version
for unaccompanied chorus with the solo treble part sung by
a soprano with organ accompaniment. A setting of a text from
Psalm 34: verse 8, Vaughan Williams composed the score for
the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey
in 1953. The choristers directed by Sir William McKie sang
the motet while the new Queen took Communion. There’s beautiful
singing from talented soprano Siobhan Stagg in the treble
part who combines with the Trinity College chorus to create
an ethereal effect. I also admire the expressive and splendidly
sung version of O Taste and See from the Choir of Worcester
Cathedral directed by Christopher Robinson on Chandos Collect
Five Mystical Songs from 1906/11 set texts by George
Herbert. They are performed here in the version for baritone,
mixed chorus and piano quintet. The premiere was given by
the composer in the version with full orchestra at the Three
Choirs Festival at Worcester Cathedral in 1911. In the first
four the baritone soloist has the prominent role but not in
the final song the Antiphon.
opening Easter makes a deep and ecstatic impression.
In I got me flowers convincing baritone Michael Leighton
Jones is highly expressive, with rich timbre and clear diction.
The Tinalley String Quartet and pianist Jonathan Bradley add
significantly to this satisfying performance. Love bade
me welcome was passionate and movingly felt. I loved the
firm and steady rendition and poignancy of The Call.
Antiphon is exuberantly sung, enthusiastic and so full
of life. The best known account of the Five Mystical Songs
in the scoring for baritone, mixed chorus and orchestra is
by John Shirley-Quirk, the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge
and the English Chamber Orchestra directed by Sir David Willcocks.
From 1966 at the King’s College Chapel, the
glorious singing makes this evergreen performance highly desirable.
Of classic status this disc (mentioned above) is on EMI Classics
CDM 5 65588 2. I have become fond of an alternative
version of the Five Mystical Songs in the scoring for
baritone, mixed chorus and orchestra from baritone Stephen
Roberts, the Sinfonia Chorus and the Northern Sinfonia of
England directed by Richard Hickox. That disc was recorded
at Trinity Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne in 1984 on EMI (see review).
the version of the Five Mystical Songs for baritone
and piano I admire the sturdy singing of Simon Keenlyside
with pianist Graham Johnson. Originally issued on Collins
Classics and recorded in 1996 at the Rosslyn Chapel, London
the disc has been reissued on Naxos (see review).
Lomond is one of the most popular Scottish folk-songs.
Vaughan Williams made his setting in 1921 for male chorus
with baritone soloist. This heart-warming score is performed
here in the 1931 version for SSATB chorus with the splendidly
caught tenor solo part sung by Timothy Reynolds. I often play
the captivating version of Loch Lomond for bass and
mixed choir performed by Michael George and the Holst Singers
from 1995. It’s part of a superb collection of part-songs,
folksongs and Shakespeare settings on Hyperion CDA66777.
Williams wrote down Bushes and Briars - a traditional
folk tune sung by shepherd Charles Pottipher - in 1903 at
Ingrave, Essex. Published in 1908 the version performed here
is for unaccompanied male choir. I was struck in this case
by the superbly matched tones of the choir of Trinity College.
There is an enthralling account of Bushes and Briars for
tenor and male chorus sung by Ian Bostridge and the Holst
Singers from 1995 on Hyperion CDA66777.
with His Lute is a Shakespeare setting from act 3, scene
1 of the history play Henry VIII. Vaughan Williams
wrote the original song setting for Miss Lucy Broadwood; published
in 1903. This version for woman’s SSAA chorus with
piano accompaniment was arranged by Archibald McDowell in
1925. Brightly sung, with an uplifting feel, the choir of
Trinity College convey a well focused sound.
Noon is a 1901 setting of a poem by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
It is the second of a sequence of six Rossetti sonnets for
voice and piano entitled The House of Life. The first
performance was given by bass Francis Harford accompanied
by Philip L. Agnew at St. James’s Hall, London in 1903. Here
Silent Noon in the adroit arrangement by Ronald Kauffmann
for TTBB male chorus and piano is performed by the choir of
Trinity College with forthright and powerful conviction.
The tender and poignant conclusion is especially well done.
I have grown to love the richly expressive version of Silent
Noon for soloist and piano sung by bass-baritone Bryn
Terfel accompanied by Malcolm Martineau from the Henry Wood
Hall, London in 2003. Silent Noon forms part of a quite
splendid collection of 33 English Songs including a
very individual performance by Terfel of Linden Lea
(c.1901) on Deutsche
Grammophon (see review).
rewarding account of Silent Noon for soloist and piano
is sung by baritone Roderick Williams accompanied by pianist
Iain Burnside. The disc contains twenty Vaughan Williams songs
including all six settings from The House of Life.
The recording was produced at Potton Hall, Suffolk in 2004
on Naxos (see review).
Williams wrote the motet Lord, Thou Hast Been Our Refuge
- a setting of verses from Psalm 90 for SATB chorus and
organ - in 1921. Set against the psalm text in the manner
of a chorale is Isaac Watts’ version of O God, Our
Help in Ages Past to William Croft’s hymn tune St Anne.
The Trinity College choir are hard to fault – the epitome
of dignified gravity and sacred inspiration.
Williams’ setting of the Latin Mass was composed in
1921 around the time of his appointment as Professor of Composition
at the Royal College of Music and the conferring of an honorary
doctorate at Oxford University. This was a period of significant
inspiration and success for Vaughan Williams with scores such
as A Pastoral Symphony and The Shepherds of the
Delectable Mountains and the premiere in 1921 of The
Lark Ascending. The Mass in G minor is scored
for unaccompanied SATB soloists and double chorus. It is noteworthy
as the first mass written in a traditional a cappella English
manner since the sixteenth century examples by Tallis and
Byrd. Vaughan Williams dedicated it to his friend Gustav Holst
and the Whitsuntide Singers. However the first performance
was given in the non-liturgical setting of Birmingham Town
Hall by the City Choir in 1922.
the direction of Michael Leighton Jones, the Trinity College
choir radiate real authority in their reading of the Kyrie
- a movement of darkly tinged undercurrents. The choir is
incisive and resilient in the Gloria and bathe the
listener in devout sentiment in the Credo. A compelling
rendition of the Sanctus is followed by a Benedictus
that is remarkable for its contrast of tenderness with lofty
peaks of supplication. A deeply felt Agnus Dei concludes
the Mass. Throughout I was impressed by the well matched
quartet of soloists, tenor Timothy Reynolds, soprano Kristy
Biber, alto Peter Campbell and baritone Julien Robinson. I
have long admired the version of the Mass sung by the
Holst Singers directed by Hilary Davan Wetton. It was recorded
in 1991 at St. Paul’s Girls School, Brook Green, Hammersmith,
London - where Holst used to teach. The lovely blended tone
and reverence of the voices is outstanding and can be heard
on Regis RRC 1135 (c/w Elgar 7 Part-Songs).
concluding work on the ABC disc is the anthem O How Amiable
a setting of verses from Psalms 84 and 90 originally composed
for choir with military band accompaniment. Vaughan Williams
wrote the anthem in 1934 as part of a collection of Music
for the Pageant of Abinger in aid of the Abinger Church
Preservation Fund. The score is dedicated to Dame Francis
Farrar of the Abinger Women’s Institute. This is the excellent
later arrangement prepared by Jerry Brubaker for SATB chorus,
brass, percussion and organ. It is splendidly performed here
by the Australian Chamber Brass Ensemble directed by Michael
Leighton Jones. The Trinity College choir clearly relishes
the rich sonorities of this magnificent and alluring music.
sound from the ecclesiastical setting of the Anglican chapel
at Trinity College was clear, well balanced but felt as cool
as ice. There is nothing at all to worry about but the sound
picture might well have been improved by a touch more warmth.
I enjoyed reading the excellent booklet notes. It includes
full texts complete with an English translation of the Latin
valuable disc of Vaughan Williams Choral Works just grew
and grew on me with each playing. There are slightly more polished
accounts of several of the scores, however, this is compensated
for by the commitment and enthusiasm of the Trinity College choir.
It has become one of my favourite Vaughan Williams discs.
by John Quinn