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Recordings of the Month


From Ocean’s Floor


Conner Riddle Songs

Rodzinski Sibelius

Of Innocence and Experience


Symphonies 1, 2, 3

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from
Sing, Ye Birds, a Joyous Song
John TAVERNER (c.1490-1545)
Western Wind Mass [18:45]
Sir Richard Rodney BENNETT (1936-2012)
The Glory and the Dream (Intimations of Immortality) [29:16]
Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625)
Glorious and Powerful God [5:16]
Second Evening Service: Magnificat [6:20]; Nunc Dimittis [3:39]
Thomas TALLIS (1505-1585)
Te lucis ante terminum [2:39]
Thomas Murray (organ); Lucas Wong (organ)
Yale Schola Cantorum/Simon Carrington
rec. live, 23 January 2010, Christ Church Episcopal, New Haven, CT. DDD.
DELOS DE3458 [65:57]

I started with three questions. Would the Renaissance and twentieth century works go well together? Could the performers convince in the different styles? Would Richard Rodney Bennett's setting of Wordsworth's Immortality Ode convey the magic of the poetry as well as the wonderful Gerald Finzi setting of that poem, Intimations of Immortality (Lyrita SRCD.238, with Patrick Hadley The Trees so High: Recording of the Month - review - Download Roundup January 2009)?

In the event, lovers of Renaissance music need have no fears about the Richard Rodney Bennett work nor need lovers of twentieth century music fear the reverse.

About the quality of the Yale Schola Cantorum I had no doubts, having enjoyed their earlier recording of the music of Heinrich Biber and his contemporaries (Carus 83.348 - Download Roundup August 2011/2 and review by Mark Sealey). They live up to the quality of that earlier release.

The choir opens proceedings with Tallis's Mass based on the secular tune 'Western wind, when wilt thou blow?' Helpfully, the first track begins with the tune itself - with this in mind it's possible to follow how Taverner weaves this simple melody into his elaborate polyphony, a piece of assistance which not all recordings provide. This is hotly disputed territory with very fine recordings from The Tallis Scholars and Peter Phillips which can be found on Gimell CDGIM027, with Masses on the same theme by Sheppard and Tye, or on a splendid 2-for-1 bargain set CDGIM209, with music by Browne, Cornysh and, again, Tye's Western Wind Mass: Bargain of the Month - review. Then there's The Sixteen/Harry Christophers (Hyperion Helios CDH55056 at budget price: Bargain of the Month - review - or even better value on a 10-CD set, CDS44401/10, The Golden Age of English Polyphony: Bargain of the Month - review) and Ars Nova Copenhagen/Paul Hillier (DaCapo 8.226050).

The Yale singers may not raise the rafters with the more soaring parts of the setting to quite the same extent as the Tallis Scholars and The Sixteen, between whom I find it impossible choose, but some listeners may well prefer the slightly more subdued approach on the new recording.

Richard Rodney Bennett's setting of the Immortality Ode also receives - and, I think invites - a comparatively subdued approach, though the singers rise to the occasion at the climaxes and they are well supported by Thomas Murray on the organ. Gerald Finzi responded instinctively to visionary texts such as Wordsworth's Immortality Ode and Thomas Traherne's Centuries (Dies Natalis, still best conducted by Christopher Finzi on EMI British Composers 0954332, 5 CDs) but Bennett also seems to have been inspired by the poem. This is the only recording in the UK catalogue, which provides a strong incentive to buy the CD.

The three pieces by Orlando Gibbons offer a short but useful introduction to his music. If you don't yet know his output, they may well encourage you to explore further. Fortunately he has received some high-quality attention on record in recent years: the recording from Winchester Cathedral Choir/David Hill on Hyperion Helios CDH55228 involves duplicating the three works on the Delos album but Hyperion's budget price amply compensates and there's plenty of other fine music on this CD. Here again, though my marginal preference would be for the Anglican cathedral choir with the music in its heritage - Gibbons was one of the first generation of composers to write solely for the post-reformation church - the Yale singers are not far behind.

The final work is Tallis's setting of the short evening hymn, Te lucis ante terminum, Before the ending of the day. The notes indicate the probability that, though the text is in Latin, it was intended for Queen Elizabeth's Chapel Royal. It's a reasonable assumption, though Chapelle du Roi and Alistair Dixon hedge their bets by placing Te lucis not in the Music for Queen Elizabeth in their complete Tallis recordings but in the second volume of Music for the Divine Office (Signum SIGCD016 - review - or the complete edition, Brilliant Classics 94268, 10 CDs at budget price - review).

If the Yale performance yields slightly to Chapelle du Roi or The Tallis Scholars (The Essential Tallis Scholars, Gimell CDGIM201, 2 CDs at budget price - review), it's not by much. Here again, I would hope that if it was the Bennett that attracted you and you don't yet know much of Tallis's music this performance would lead you to either of those recordings or to one of the many other fine recordings of his music, such as The Tallis Scholars sing Thomas Tallis (Gimell CDGIM203, 2 CDs, budget price - review).

The Delos recording was made live but mercifully the audience are conspicuously inaudible. I know that some listeners cannot abide repeated hearing of live recordings - they know where that intrusive cough comes and tense up in anticipation - but there's no problem here. The recording itself is good, though very slightly recessed and benefiting from a volume boost.

The booklet notes, by Simon Carrington and Karen Jones, are brief but helpful - wisely Ms Jones refrains from the usual unproven speculations about Taverner's religious beliefs. The texts and translations are included.

All in all there's plenty to like about this new recording and very little to dislike.

Brian Wilson