Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Ave Verum [3:26]; John SHEPPARD (1515-1559) In pace [4:58]; Thomas ATTWOOD (1765-1838) Come holy Ghost [4:35]; Thomas TALLIS (1505-1585) O nata lux [1:45]; If ye love me [2:15]; Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Ave verum [2:54]; Richard FARRANT (1525-1580) / John HILTON (?-1608) Lord for thy tender mercies sake [2:03]; Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Jesu, joy of man’s desiring [5:50]; Robert PARSONS (1530-1570) Ave Maria [5:33]; John GOSS (1800-1880) O Saviour of the World [3:24]; O taste and see [4:17]; Richard DERING (1580-1630) Jesu decus angelorum [3:46]; O vos omnes [4:12]; Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) Thou knowest Lord [2:47]; William BYRD (1543-1623) Ave verum corpus [4:01]; O Lord give ear [3:03]; César FRANCK (1822-1890) Panis Angelicus [3:14]; Christopher TYE (1505-1580) Give almes of thy goods [2:01]; Thomas CAMPION (1567-1620) Never weather beaten sail [1:56]
Choir of Clare College, Cambridge/Timothy Brown
rec. no details given
no texts or translations
HERITAGE HTGCD 212 CD [66:00]
Tudor Anthems and Motets
Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625) Hosanna to the Son of David [2:48]; O Lord in thy wrath [3:48]; ? MUDD (?) Let thy merciful ears [1:35]; Richard FARRANT (1525-1580) Call to remembrance [2:03]; Richard FARRANT (1525-1580) / John HILTON (?-1608) Lord for thy tender mercies sake [2:03]; Thomas TALLIS (1505-1585) Salvator mundi [3:21]; If ye love me [2:17]; William BYRD (1543-1623) Haec dies [2:12]; Ave verum corpus [4:29]; O Lord give ear [3:00]; Sing joyfully [2:41]; Thomas TOMKINS (1572-1656) When David heard [5:35]; Richard DERING (1580-1630) Factum est silentium [2:40]; Peter PHILPS (1560-1628) Ascendit Deus [2:24]; Robert PARSONS (1530-1570) Ave Maria [5:49]; John SHEPPARD (1515-1559) Libera nos [3:11]; Thomas WEELKES (c1575-1623) Hosanna to the Son of David [1:55]; Robert WHITE (1538-1574) The Lord bless us [4:23]
Choir of Clare College, Cambridge/Timothy Brown
rec. June 1991 and June 1993
no texts or translations included
HERITAGE HTGCD 216 CD [67:32]
The Choir of Clare College may not be as celebrated in the popular imagination as those of King’s or St John’s. Its use of mixed voices may rule it out as far as some church musicians are concerned. However, their bright sound and imaginative and alert response to the music put them right up at the top as far as I am concerned.
The College has had a mixed voice choir since 1971. The period from 1979 to 2010 during which Timothy Brown was its Director was one of particularly high quality and during this time they made many excellent discs which fully deserve reissue. Heritage have done the Choir few favours in the presentation of the present discs but in terms of quality of music-making and recording they are of considerable interest.
Reflection is in some ways the odder of the two. It comprises a mixture of unaccompanied and accompanied music - although no organist is named - including not only Tudor figures but such later British composers as Purcell, Attwood, Goss, Elgar, and three others who do not really fit in to the general theme of the disc. The pieces by these “interlopers” – Bach, Mozart and Franck – are the least satisfactory items here. The use of organ accompaniment in place of the original orchestral versions in the Mozart and Bach items is particularly harmful, making their character much less individual. Whilst these are by no means unmusical or technically inadequate as performances it is hard to see anyone wanting this disc for them when so many recordings of these pieces are available in the forms that their composers intended.
The other items however are another matter entirely. Somewhat to my surprise it was the later British items that made an especial impact. The names of Goss and Attwood in Service Lists do not usually tend to make my blood run faster, but as sung here, with a very winning combination of care for the longer line and care over detail, they are quite magical in their impact. All too often recordings by Cathedral or College Choirs tend to play safe, avoiding anything that might be or be thought wrong. That is not the case here. Admittedly these may not be especially technically demanding works but they do respond well to the understanding treatment that they get here.
Music from the Tudor period or just after occupies just over half of this disc and the whole of the other. The choir’s abilities are shown even more here. There is some overlap with five items common to both discs although I am unclear as to whether they are in fact all identical recordings. Understandably this might put some potential purchasers off buying the two which would be a pity when there is so much that is so good on both. If you are able to hear them before purchase the sheer ebullience of Gibbons’ “Hosanna to the Son of David” might convince you that the Tudor disc is better, but then the sheer beauty of John Sheppard’s “In pace” might suggest Reflection as the one to choose. Both discs have an excellent mixture with music of surprisingly different character, although in the case of Reflection this is more a matter of musical style than of overall character. It is also subject to the few disappointing items I mentioned earlier.
It is however very regrettable that these discs are let down by the absence of texts and translations and of notes giving more than a general historical context for each composer. It is clear that all of these composers cared deeply about the meaning of the words they were setting, so that not to be able to follow them is a serious disadvantage. Most of the items on the Tudor disc are included in the Oxford Book of Tudor Anthems (ISBN 0-19-353325-1) which has admirable notes about each piece. Careful browsing of the Internet will produce information, not always very accurate, about the contents of both discs. It would have taken little trouble for Heritage to have made this available to the listener with the discs. I hope that these lapses in presentation will nonetheless not be sufficient to put potential purchasers off two otherwise very distinguished discs.
So much that is so good on these discs.