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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



 REVIEW

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John STAINER (1840-1901)
The Crucifixion: A Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer (words selected and written by Rev. J. Sparrow-Simpson) (1887)
Michael George (bass); James Griffett (tenor)
Peterborough Cathedral Choir/Stanley Vann
Andrew Newberry (organ)
rec. Peterborough Cathedral, 1978?
first released as Hyperion LP A88007; ASV6100. ADD
REGIS RRC1307 [61:00]
Experience Classicsonline

It now has a jaded reputation but Stainer’s Crucifixion had many years of popularity. Modest church choirs and amateur tenors and basses in parish churches and cathedrals across the worldwide Anglican communion welcomed it. The work shared the limelight with other sentimental lachrymose Victoriana such as Olivet to Calvary by John Henry Maunder (1858-1920). Indeed those two works are in harness on a 2 CD set on Classics for Pleasure CFP 5757792. It features Frederick Harvey (baritone), John Lawrenson (baritone), Terence Clifford (baritone), Philip Mindenhall (bass), Peter Morse (organ) and the Choir of Guildford Cathedral conducted by Barry Rose.

No doubt The Crucifixion still rates the occasional performance although as churches close and are rationalised one can see even that sure stronghold falling away. The Maunder was performed earlier this year (2009) in Chester, Havant and Halifax and the Stainer in Reading, Stroud, Yeovil, Shipley and Bolton. Allowing for its hold on a certain generation’s affections and religious beliefs it still has some currency and this recording answers the need for familiarisation for choir members and soloists planning a performance and as a musical experience in its own right.

Griffett and George are distinguished and intelligent singers. They make a very pleasing sound -probably better than the work has enjoyed in the majority of its recent performances. There is a forthright honest analogue hiss about the Regis recording but since the intrinsic sound is pleasing one can soon banish this from awareness. Hymns by Stainer are interspersed among the segments of the main work. All in all it’s a beautiful performance and was superbly prepared by Vann. In terms of musical interest it is thin gruel but these forces make the best of it.

W. Stanley Vann was born in Leicester in 1910. He held organist posts in cathedrals and parish churches and founded the Warwickshire Symphony Orchestra. He saw war service 1942-45. He wrote much choral music including a Billingshurst Mass, a concert mass for soprano and baritone solo, full chorus and orchestra.

The Stainer work is accorded a typically fine note from James Murray - a regular for Regis and its sub-labels. There are no texts provided but then again they are not needed. You can hear every word whether from soloists or full choir.

Rob Barnett 

Footnote
The oratorio comprises the following movements in this recording:
And They Came To A Place Named Gethsemane recitative
The Agony
Processional To Calvary & chorus "Lift High the Gates"
And When They Were Come
The Mystery Of The Divine Humiliation hymn
He Made Himself Of No Reputation
The Majesty Of The Divine Humiliation
And As Moses Lifted Up The Serpent recit. & arioso for B.
God So Loved The World chorus or quartet a capella
Litany Of The Passion hymn
Jesus Said, 'Father, Forgive Them'
So Thou Liftest Thy Divine Petition
The Mystery Of The Intercession hymn
And One Of The Malefactors
The Adoration Of The Crucified hymn
When Jesus Therefore Saw His Mother
Is It Nothing To You? chorus
The Appeal Of The Crucified
After This, Jesus Knowing That All Things Were Now Accomplished
For The Love Of Jesus hymn  

 


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