Into Thy Hands Ė The Music of the Grosvenor Chapel
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Missa Brevis in D major K194 [17:36]; Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585) Loquebantur variis linguis [4:04]; Robert WHITE (c.1538-1574) Ad te levavi oculos meos [3:37]; Peter PHILIPS (1560-1628) Christus resurgens ex mortuis [3:25]; John BLOW (1649-1708) Salvator mundi [2:58]; Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes mei [6:23]; George Friderick HANDEL (1685-1759) As pants the hart for cooling streams [12:14]; Francis JACKSON (b.1917) Come, thou holy Paraclete Op 85 [8:15]; Jonathan DOVE (b.1959) Into thy hands [6:08]
The Choir of the Grosvenor Chapel/Richard Hobson (director and organ)
Joseph Sentance (organ)
rec. Grosvenor Chapel, Mayfair, London, 4-6 June 2010
texts and English translations included
REGENT REGCD351 [62:32]
The Grosvenor Estate in London has its origin in land owned by the Duke of Westminster which was developed mainly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Grosvenor Square, which now houses the American Embassy, and the area around it dates originally from the 1720s. The Grosvenor Chapel, just south of the Square, was opened in 1730 to serve those living there, but later became part of the parish of St Georgeís, Hanover Square. I regret to say that I have so far neither seen it nor been in it, although the photographs on the Chapelís website show a small but fine and characterful building despite drastic internal re-ordering by Ninian Comper in 1912 placing the altar rather than the pulpit in the centre. Even more I regret not having heard the Chapelís Choir live, as on the evidence of this disc they are a fine and well disciplined small choir well able to do justice to a wide and interesting repertoire.
The present disc falls essentially into four parts. The first is the Mozart Mass dating from 1774 and full of charm and interest. I have tended previously to regard the composerís early Masses as somewhat routine in nature, but this performance suggests that this is wrong. Perhaps the lively and businesslike manner of this performance works better than a more obviously ďsensitiveĒ approach, and certainly the use of soloists from within the choir helps to hold the work together, at least when they are as good as they are here. The small single instrumental group is also well integrated into a performance to which I found myself going back to repeatedly.
The second group is of English Church music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, all settings of Latin texts and thus presumably intended for Catholic rather than Anglican services. These, or at least the works by Purcell and Tallis, are probably the best known music on the disc. I found the womenís voices at times somewhat hard in tone compared with the all-male groups for whom the music was written but the quality and character of the music is never obscured, and there is much to enjoy in the sheer security of the singing. The Purcell and Blow items in particular are rendered with great expressive force.
Handelís As pants the hart exists in a number of versions, including as one of the Chandos Anthems. It appears here in its original guise as written for the Chapel Royal with organ accompaniment. As the useful but anonymous booklet note suggests the result bears a close resemblance in form to the seventeenth century verse anthem. Once again it is presented without fuss but with considerable care over its style.
The final two works are by living British composers. The anthem by Francis Jackson Come, thou holy Paraclete was written in 1991 for the dedication of a new organ in the Grosvenor Chapel. Perhaps surprisingly given the composerís own mastery of the instrument and the occasion involved this is far from being an organ solo with choral accompaniment. The organ part is indeed far from showy. Jonathan Doveís Into thy hands sets words by St Edmund of Abingdon and was written for the 750th anniversary of his canonization. It too is reflective rather than extrovert, but both works fully deserve their place here.
Both organists make the most of the Chapelís instrument by William Drake installed in 1991, and the recording fairly represents what I would imagine the acoustic of this relatively small building to be. With good booklet notes, full texts and translations and a diverse but very interesting and enjoyable choice of music this disc is an admirable introduction (at least for me) to a fine choir in an interesting church.
A diverse, very interesting and enjoyable choice of music makes this an admirable introduction to a fine choir.