The Glory of Ely Cathedral
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Imperial March Op. 32 [5:28]; Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941) Adagio in E [5:57]; Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924) Te Deum and Jubilate in C [11:10]; Te Deum and Jubilate in A [12:05]; Sir Edward BAIRSTOW (1874-1946) Lamentation [8:06]; Thomas Tertius NOBLE (1867-1953) Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in A minor [7:17]; Marcel DUPRÉ (1886-1971) Chorale and Fugue in F# major Op. 57 [6:31]; Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936) Fantasia Op. 110 [15:56]
Jeremy Filsell, Paul Trepte (organ)
The Choir of Ely Cathedral/Paul Trepte
rec. Ely Cathedral, 1991-1992
no texts included
HERITAGE HTGCD 219 [73:31]
I would imagine that nobody doubts that Ely Cathedral is glorious. Its extraordinarily beautiful octagonal lantern tower, the Lady Chapel, the painted ceiling, the stained glass – these and many other features, not least its situation in the Fens, make it one of the most beautiful if not the most beautiful of English Cathedrals. Despite its title, however, the glory that this disc shows relates solely to the musical life of the Cathedral – by no means the least of its glories – and consists of recordings made nearly thirty years ago. A pity not to have something to show the choir as it is now, but no complaints as to the quality of what is on offer here.
The bulk of the disc comprises choral items with organ accompaniment. A discourtesy on the part of Heritage not to name the organist(s) in these items, especially as he/she/they are uniformly excellent. So are the choir whose vigorous but sensitive singing brings out the best of each of the works chosen. The singing of the tenors and basses is especially noteworthy, with real quality of tone and awareness of the musical line. They are neither rough nor feeble – the usual twin dangers for Cathedral choirs. The two Stanford settings of the morning canticles are well contrasted, full of invention and arguably amongst his very best works. The more austere but very lovely Bairstow Lamentation is deeply felt and the performance does it full justice. Tertius Noble’s evening canticles in A minor are less well known that the set in B minor, but are at least as interesting. The recording of all these items brings one up close to the choir, as if one were sitting close by at Evensong.
The solo organ works are recorded more distantly, but once allowance is made for that the recording is more than adequate. The Elgar and Bridge, both played by Jeremy Filsell – at that time the Assistant Organist, are given full-blooded performances, as is the Dupré although the instrument sounds more English than French. The odd one out is Glazunov’s Fantasie, much longer than any of the other solos but one which, for me at least, easily outstays its welcome. As the choir made several very valuable recordings at that time it would have been better to have included more choral items, perhaps from their very successful disc of anthems by Sullivan. I do not know the basis on which the items were chosen for this disc. Possibly because all the composers represented were contemporaries, albeit of different generations, and this certainly makes for some interesting comparisons.
There are very brief notes on the music but no texts. This should be no problem for the canticles but they would have been welcome for the Bairstow, the words for which are taken from the Lamentation of Jeremiah. Nonetheless there is so much to enjoy here, and the choir in particular is so good that the disc would be worth having for the choral items alone.
There is so much to enjoy here.