To quote the CD sleeve: “A journey through some of the most moving and majestic music taken from State occasions throughout the Queen’s reign chosen to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee”. That very nicely sums up what you should expect here. This is a compilation of 22 short pieces running for a generous 77 minutes. The backbone of the collection is based on the music played at the Coronation on 2 June 1953. It isn’t the sort of disc you would listen to straight through in one sitting but that’s not a criticism and potential purchasers will know just what to expect.
The less than accurate booklet notes suggest that the music set before us here originates from three different sessions, all recorded in Westminster Abbey in 1993/4, 1997 and 1998. The most enjoyable performances are the nine items featuring either London Brass and/or the English Chamber Orchestra. A very stylish Trumpet Tune
with soloist Andrew Crowley opens proceedings. This is followed by an equally impressive Zadok the Priest
. The Gloria in Excelsis
of Stanford is splendid stuff very much along the lines of Parry’s I was Glad
. The disc comes to an inspiring finish with Gordon Jacob’s Fanfare
and arrangement of the National Anthem
. The performances are crisp, lightly sprung and full-toned, all captured in spectacular fashion by the engineers in the Abbey’s reverberant acoustic. Played at a high volume it sounds terrific. The decay time is around 5 seconds but the recording is in no way compromised by this.
The collection of hymns performed by choir accompanied by organ is perfectly professional but not especially inspiring, with the exception of Make me a Channel of Your Peace
where the choral line really opens up and soars. The others sound just a bit cautious. Personally, I find Cwm Rhondda
on the terraces of Cardiff Arms Park and Blaenwern
played by a brass band far more moving than the versions on offer here.
The booklet suggests that there are four solos by treble Timothy Dickinson and Nicholas Daniel on oboe. In reality, there are no treble solos and just one contribution from Nicholas Daniel - a beautifully played Air
from Handel’s Water Music
and one of the highlights on the disc. More care on checking the artwork wouldn’t have gone amiss. Potential purchasers shouldn’t be put off by this, however, because musically the CD is highly attractive for those interested in collections of this type.