Edward ELGAR (1857 - 1934) Imperial March [5.28] (2)
Frank BRIDGE (1879 - 1941) Adagio in E [5.57] (2)
Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852 - 1924) Te Deum in C [7.48] (1, 2, 4); Jubilate in C [3.22] (1, 2, 4)
Edward BAIRSTOW (1874 - 1946) Lamentation [8.06] (1, 2, 4)
STANFORD Te Deum in A [8.26] (1, 2, 4); Jubilate in A [3.39] (1, 2, 4)
Thomas Tertius NOBLE (1867- 1953) Magnificat in A [4.12] (1, 2, 4); Nunc Dimittis in A [3.05] (1, 2, 4)
Marcel DUPRE (1886 - 1971) Chorale and Fugue in F sharp minor, Op 57 [6.31] (2)
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865 - 1936) Fantaisie, Op. 110 [15.56] (3)
Choir of Ely Cathedral (1); Jeremy Filsell (organ) (2); Paul Trepte (organ) (3); Paul Trepte (conductor) (4)
rec. July 1991 (Elgar and Bridge), May 1991 (Stanford, Bairstow, Noble), 1992 (Dupré), January 1992 (Glazunov)
HERITAGE HTGCD 219 [73.31]
This disc is a compilation of tracks originally recorded at Ely in the early 1990s. It contains items from choral and organ recitals put together here under the name of The Glory of Ely, the intention being to showcase the choir - in fine fettle under Paul Trepte - and the organ here played by Jeremy Filsell. An additional item of interest is that since the recording was made, the organ has been further upgraded by Harrison and Harrison. At the time of recording, Jeremy Filsell was just coming to the end of his stint as organist at Ely.
Filsell opens proceedings with Elgar's Imperial March, a suitably impressive start. Elgar didn't write much for organ and in fact this was an arrangement, done by George Martin (organist at St. Paul's Cathedral) at the behest of Elgar's publishers. This is followed by Frank Bridge's Adagio in E. This is one of his more conventional pieces which goes from quiet to grandiloquence.
Then comes the choral segment, with music by Stanford, Bairstow and Noble. These come from a 1991 disc. Stanford's services show his skill at choral writing for choir and his ability to show them off to their best. The music suits Ely Cathedral Choir admirably and they give a confident and vibrant performance. Balance is generally good, though there are a couple of moments when individual voices come to the fore. The lower voices are strong with few hints of the weakness that can bedevil Cathedral choirs.
Bairstow's Lamentation was written in 1942 but it breathes the same air as Stanford's music. Bairstow became organist at York Minster in 1913 and remained there until his death in 1946. It sets passages from Lamentations in Anglican chant, with more lyrical outbursts of Jerusalem occurring as a refrain.
Thomas Tertius Noble studied with Stanford and became his assistant at Trinity College. Noble was at Ely for a few years before moving to York. Then he moved on to St. Thomas's in New York where he established the choir school. His Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in A were written whilst Noble was at York and dedicated to the choir there. Still recognisably related to the idiom of Stanford, Noble's harmonic language includes interesting touches not found in Stanford.
We then move back to the organ and are transported to France. Jeremy Filsell's recording of Dupré's Chorale and Fugue comes from a disc of Dupré's music. Filsell and the Ely Organ make a good case for Dupré's plainchant-inflected, virtuosic music. In fact the Ely Organ (a Harrison and Harrison instrument dating from 1908 with some older pipe-work) works very well in French music.
Finally we have Glazunov's Fantaisie, played by Paul Trepte. This isn't so much of a lurch as you might think as Glazunov didn't write organ music for the Russian church; Orthodox services were always unaccompanied. So Glazunov was influenced by Bach, Liszt and Dupré, who in fact edited all of Glazunov's organ pieces.
The CD booklet contains short introductions to the performers and the composers, but no texts.
There is a slightly awkward mix of pieces on this disc. Though they are intelligently performed, I am not sure whether everyone will be inclined to this mix. The fine performances ensure that the interest is more than local, even if the programming is a bit indigestible. So, if you are drawn to the English choral tradition then this is highly attractive.
Robert Hugill
A slightly awkward mix but highly attractive and intelligently and finely performed.