52,943 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

Chopin Edition 17CDs
now available separately
£11 post-free anywhere


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

Mozart Brahms
Clarinet Quintets


Recordings of the Month


Opera transcriptions & fantasias


Mozart Brahms
Clarinet Quintets

Schubert Symphony 9


Jean-Baptiste LEMOYNE

Enescu Ravel Britten

Debussy Images etc.

53 Studies on Chopin Études 1
Konstantin Scherbakov (piano)





Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

A Year at King’s
Arvo PÄRT (b. 1935) Two Magnificat Antiphons [6:07]
Francisco GUERRERO (1528-1599) Canite tuba [2:37]
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (c.1525-1594) Hodie Christus natus est [2:28]
John TAVENER (b. 1944) Away in a manger [3:44]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963) Videntes stellam [2:46]
Orlando de LASSUS (c.1532-1594) Videntes stellam Magi [3:19]
Johannes ECCARD (1533-1611) When to the Temple [4:02]
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934) Nunc dimittis [3:21]
Gregorio ALLEGRI (1582-1652) Miserere [13:47]
Samuel BARBER (1910-1981) Agnus Dei [7:22]
Peter PHILIPS (c.1560-1628) Surgens Jesus [2:02]
Charles WOOD (1866-1926) ’Tis the day of Resurrection [5:51]
Tomás Luis de VICTORIA (1548-1611) Ascendens Christus in altum [5:20]
Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924) Coelos ascendit hodie [2:04]
Thomas TALLIS (c 1505-1585) Spem in alium* [7:46]
The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge/*Peter Stevens (organ)/Stephen Cleobury
rec. Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge 6–9 July 2009 and *July 2008
Original texts and English translations included
EMI CLASSICS 50999 6 09004 2 5 [72:43]

Experience Classicsonline
There are several recordings in the catalogue featuring the King’s College choir singing music for Christmas but this is a different – and potentially interesting – alternative, presenting liturgical music for various different festivals in the calendar of the Christian church. I use the word “potentially” because it seems to me that whoever was responsible for this very good idea has slightly run out of steam during the planning process.

As a result, there’s quite a bias towards Advent (tracks 1 – 3) and the Christmas season through to Candlemas (tracks 4 – 9). By contrast Easter and the feast of Ascension get two just tracks each and there’s nothing for Pentecost or Trinity Sunday, nor are any important saints’ days marked. Lent is represented by two items. One could argue that it’s stretching a point to classify Barber’s Agnus Dei as a Lenten piece. Its seasonal companion here is definitely a Lenten piece but I wish something a little more adventurous than Allegri’s interminable, repetitious Miserere had been offered. The final item in the programme, Spem in alium, is included to represent Ordinary Time.

If the programme plan is something of a mixed bag then so too – and this may surprise some readers – are the performances. On one level the singing is fully up to King’s high standards: disciplined and well prepared – though there were occasions, the Stanford motet being one of them, when I felt that the tuning of the trebles wasn’t completely accurate. But perhaps that very discipline and detailed preparation is part of the trouble. Several times I felt that the singing was too controlled, too calculated and lacking sufficient excitement, risk or joy. One such example is the performance of Palestrina’s Hodie Christus natus est. In my listening notes I’ve written “Beautiful. But is it a bit too controlled? Perhaps some more uninhibited joy?” Further on in the recital we hear Victoria’s Ascendens Christus in altum and once again I felt that the performance, though technically good, didn’t seem to catch fire.

In fairness, I should say immediately that the very next piece, which is also another Ascension setting is much more involving. There’s good bite in the singing at the start of Stanford’s Coelos ascendit hodie and it makes such a difference.

Despite the reservations already noted there’s much to enjoy and admire here. The textures of Poulenc’s wonderful Christmas motet are expertly realised and though my own preference is for an SATB choir in this music the present performance is a good one. The choir’s account of Eccard’s When to the Temple is excellent and it was an intelligent piece of programme planning to position this piece immediately after the one by Lassus since Eccard was a pupil of Lassus.

I’ve commented before in these pages that I’m not convinced that Barber’s own choral arrangement of his celebrated Adagio for Strings really works. The writing takes the treble line to vertiginous heights at several points and although this performance is a good one even the renowned King’s trebles are taxed by the punishing tessitura once or twice.

One welcomes the inclusion of Holst’s setting of the Nunc dimittis and though adult choirs often sing it nowadays, the all-male choir is the natural vehicle for the music since Holst conceived it for R R Terry’s Westminster Cathedral choir. The setting builds from a subdued start and Stephen Cleobury and his choir do it full justice. Another pleasing inclusion is John Tavener’s 2005 setting of Away in a manger, which was written for the College’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. This seems to me to be a successful modern take on an old favourite and faithful to the spirit of the original. Some may be surprised by the forthright music of the middle stanza but the final verse, which features a lovely treble solo, is disarming.

The programme ends with Tallis’s forty-part motet Spem in alium. There isn’t a mistake in the track listing: the performance s indeed accompanied by organ. This is something I’ve never heard done before, though a musical friend to whom I mentioned this says it’s not an infrequent occurrence. The accompaniment is extremely discreet and I can only presume it was used because the size of the choir meant that each part had to be taken by a single voice and therefore a little reinforcement was deemed necessary. The organ is played so softly that I found I didn’t object to its presence. I’m sorry to say, however, that I think the choice of this piece was a miscalculation. There’s insufficient dynamic contrast in the performance and all too often the singing of individual parts, the treble lines especially, sounds weak. The passage between 2:27 and 3:30 sounds particularly tentative and it’s not until the final few minutes – from about 6:28 – that the choral sound has anything like the necessary body. Whether he was motivated by consideration for his singers or because it’s his conception of the piece, Stephen Cleobury dispatches it in 7:46, which is more than two minutes shorter than any recorded performance I’ve encountered. As a result, the music is robbed of breadth. Other listeners may react more favourably but I regretted the inclusion of this item.

I’m sure that this disc will find a ready market and many collectors will welcome the opportunity to add to their shelves a King’s CD that doesn’t consist entirely of Christmas music. I’m afraid I found the disc something of a disappointment.

John Quinn



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


      Composer surveys
      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

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


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

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



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

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
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
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
Web Ring
Translation Service

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

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.