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The Rodolfus Choir – Choral Collection
See track listing after the review.
The Rodolfus Choir/Ralph Allwood and Ben Parry (directors)
rec. 1994-2004
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD240 [67:03 + 64:32 + 68:19]

Experience Classicsonline



Although they’re available singly, the slipcase edition contains all three CDs. None is new, and the most recent, which is the Tallis disc, dates from 2004. The Grier was recorded in 1994 and the Arrangement album at various times over half a decade.

It’s that one with which we’ll begin as it serves up variety and unexpected things in good measure. You’ll find choral arrangements of such as Chopin Etudes, Peer Gynt, the Nutcracker Suite, and the Toccata finale from Widor’s Symphony No.5 for organ, rendered as ‘Sing!’ by David Willcocks. The arrangers are a wide-ranging group – Ralph Allwood, one of The Rodolfus Choir’s directors is prominent. Inevitably perhaps there is one of Clytus Gottwald’s Mahler refashionings, but we also find the (authentic) Barber in one of its composer-sanctioned guises. I took to the Grieg, which works nicely, whilst the Ave verum corpus is, in a sense, half way there. The Schubert has piano accompaniment, but inflating An die Musik in this way is not especially worthwhile, I have to say. The dance from the Nutcracker is arranged by Leo Hussain and is good fun, though Robert Quinney turns the same composer’s Quartet movement into an Ave Maria. That said Jonathan Rathbone turns the ‘Air on a G string’ into a Requiem aeternam. I suppose that’s the problem with this sort of thing in the end; an excess of piety.

The Tallis disc is reflective and intimately shaped. Suscipe quaeso Domine is a very beautiful piece of music and I happen to prefer this interpretation to that of the Tallis Scholars on Gimell [GIM006], by virtue of its greater sense of reflective intimacy. Another difference between them is tonal. The Tallis group prefers a more ringing top line, less blended, and in this sense more angular in phrasing, with voices occasionally emerging piping out of the texture. They generally too prefer faster tempi, and more abrupt accenting, as can be heard in their respective performances; Loquebantur variis linguis is a case in point. The Rodolphus is a touch more measured, more obviously blended. The English motet If ye love me, though very brief, generates great tonal warmth and is an example of this group at its very best.

The disc devoted to Francis Grier is an exceptionally fine one. It helps that the writing is so clever and sympathetic; also that Grier has a nice line in declamation. The passionate co-exists with introspective reflection – a real mulling over of the material in single or mass lines – in Let us invoke Christ. The Three Short Anthems might suggest the influence of Rachmaninoff, with the last one almost exultant in its affirmation. Day after Day was written for the soloist, here, James Bowman and The Rodolfus Choir. It’s a setting of Tagore and is a haunting piece, maybe influenced by Vaughan Williams. What is so impressive about Grier’s settings is the sense of devotional athleticism; there’s nothing slumbering here. The pirouetting element throughout Thou, O God, art praised in Sion attests to the vitality of the writing, and to the surety of the design.

The performances are generally excellent, so too the recordings. I suggest picking and choosing rather than going for the box, unless you’re a real fan of the choir, since the repertoire is so divergent.

Jonathan Woolf

 

By Special Arrangement
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Prelude and Fugue Book 1 No. 22 in B flat minor, BWV867: Prelude (arr, Ralph Attwood as 'Die mit Tränen säen') [2:53]
Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV1068: Air ('Air on a G String') (arr. Jonathan Rathbone as 'Requiem æternam') [4:46]
Samuel BARBER (1910-1981)
Agnus Dei (‘Adagio for Strings, op.11’) [6:49]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Étude Op. 10 No. 3 in E major 'Tristesse' (arr. Leo Hussain as 'How do I love thee?') [3:34]
Prelude Op. 28 No. 20 in C minor (arr. Ralph Attwood as 'Pro peccatis suæ gentis') [2:06]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring (arr. Robert Quinney) [6:31]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Peer Gynt: Solveig's Song (arr. Alex Milner/Lora Sansun) [4:06]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791):
Ave verum corpus, K618 (arr. Ben Parry) [3:04]
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (Rückert-Lieder) (arr. Clytus Gottwald) [6:52]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Crisantemi (arr. Ralph Allwood/Lora Sansun as 'Christo smarrito') [5:55]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
An die Musik D547 (arr. Lydia Smallwood) [2:44]
Litanei auf das Fest Allerseelen, D343 (arr. Ralph Attwood)
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
The Nutcracker: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (arr. Leo Hussain) [5:06]
Andante Cantabile (arr. Ralph Attwood as 'Ave Maria') [1:42]
Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Toccata from Organ Symphony No. 5 In F Minor, Op. 42 No. 1 (arr. David Willcocks as 'Sing!') [6:07]
The Rodolfus Choir/Ralph Allwood and Ben Parry (directors)
rec. 1995-99, Eton College Chapel and School Hall
Texts included
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD243 [67:03]

Francis GRIER (b.1955)
Let us invoke Christ (1993) [7:18]
Three Short Anthems; Great is the power of thy Cross (1989) [4:08]: God, who made the earth and sky (1989) [1:40]: Proclaim his triumph (1989) [1:47]
Day after Day (1994) [7:07] ¹
Salve Regina (1993) [13:19]
Three Devotions; Corpus Christi Carol [3:13]: O King of the Friday [3:38]: Christ's Love-Song [2:26]
The voice of my beloved (1991) [3:38]
Dilectus meus mihi (1987) [7:10]
Thou, O God, art praised in Sion (1993) [7:49]
James Bowman (counter-tenor) ¹
Christopher Hughes (organ)
The Rodolfus Choir/Ralph Allwood
rec. 1994, Eton College Chapel
Texts included
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD242 [64:32]

Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585)
Sancte Deus [6:22]
Suscipe quaeso Domine [9:05]
Salvator Mundi [2:14]
Miserere nostri, motet for 7 voices [2:36]
In ieiunio et fletu [3:55]
If ye love me [1:49]
Loquebantur variis linguis [3:37]
Candidi Facti Sunt [4:59]
O Lord, give thy holy spirit [2:18]
O nata lux de lumine [1:30]
Videte miraculum [8:25]
Verily, verily I say unto you [1:36]
O salutaris hostia for five voices [2:18]
O sacrum convivium [3:26]
Thou wast, O God [3:08]
Jesu salvator saeculi [4:04]
Short Service (Dorian) for 4 voices: Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis [3:12 + 1:47]
Te lucis ante terminum [1:58]
The Rodolfus Choir/Ralph Allwood
rec. December 2004, Eton College Chapel
Texts included
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD241 [68:19]

SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD240 - Set of all three CDs in slipcase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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