One of the most grown-up review sites around

52,700 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

£11 post-free anywhere
(currently suspended)


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

Haydn Scottish Songs

Choral Music

Liszt Sonata

Renaissance Bohemia

Cyril Scott piano music

Hahn Complete Songs

Piano Sonatas 6,7,8 Osborne

Symphony for solo piano

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers
Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Hymns to Saint Cecilia
Track & performance listing below review
rec. **25 April 2013, Rochester Cathedral; 26-27 April 2013, All Hallows, Gospel Oak, London. DDD
Texts and translations included
HYPERION CDA68047 [70:32]

The excellent idea behind this programme is to assemble a collection of pieces inspired by or in honour of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music and musicians. Arguably, the Elgar part song doesn’t quite fit that template but let’s welcome it as an exception that proves the rule. Britten’s Hymn to St. Cecilia, his last collaboration with W.H. Auden, is an obvious selection and it gets an excellent performance here. However, many of the other pieces are less familiar so their inclusion is doubly welcome. Several of the pieces were composed for the annual St Cecilia’s Day service held in London under the auspices of the Musicians Benevolent Fund.
Two pieces, both here receiving their first recordings, were written for Rupert Gough and the Choir of Royal Holloway. One of these is Gabriel Jackson’s La musique. I had the good fortune to attend the first performance of this piece, which was given at a Cheltenham Festival concert in July 2013, some weeks after the sessions for this recording. The piece made a strong impression on me then (review) and that’s been reinforced by the opportunity to hear it again on disc. Jackson has combined two texts in this piece, setting simultaneously the poem by Baudelaire which gives the piece its title (in French, for the soprano soloist) and a poem in English, ‘I am in need of music’ by the American poet, Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979); this is sung by the choir. The music is attractive and beautifully imagined; this is another example of Jackson’s highly inventive ear for unaccompanied choral textures. The soprano solo line, which is a gift for a singer like Dame Felicity, contrasts with and complements the choral parts most effectively. The music is gorgeous, not least the soft, rapt conclusion.
James MacMillan’s Cecilia Virgo, for double choir gets the programme off to an impressive start. This celebratory piece features radiant and excitingly full choral textures and, as ever with this composer, the harmonic language is intriguing. In his notes Rupert Gough points out that MacMillan has his two choirs singing in different keys at the start of the work and that over a hundred years earlier Elgar also used twin tonalities in There is sweet music. Arguably that was, at the time, a more daring device than would be the case nowadays. Elgar slightly smooths over the radical nature of the harmonies because his dynamics are quiet. Nonetheless, this is a more novel device than we might expect to find in a turn-of-the-century English part song. The Royal Holloway singers are equally adept in both of these pieces.
I don’t know if it’s more than a nice coincidence but two of the pieces involve settings of poems by Ursula Vaughan Williams. She provided the words for her husband’s lovely Silence and Music, which is given an exquisite performance here. A few years later she furnished the text for A Hymn for St. Cecilia by Howells. This piece is markedly different in style to the offering from RVW. Where Silence and Music is subtle and delicate Howells provides a sturdy, hymn-like setting. Both are highly effective in their different ways: the soaring soprano descant that Howells adds above the unison tune in the last stanza of his piece is most striking.
The Howells is one of four pieces – the last four on the programme – which include an organ accompaniment. Dyson’s Live for ever, glorious Lord features an important soprano solo part which is superbly sung here by Jessica Smith, one of the Royal Holloway sopranos. William Mason’s playing of the substantial organ part is equally impressive. Sing, mortals! is the last choral work that Sir Arthur Bliss wrote. I don’t recall hearing it before and it strikes me that the music is a notable response to the text.
This is a most interesting and nicely varied programme of music. The singing is consistently fine. The choir’s blend is excellent and I admire very much the fresh tone that they produce. Rupert Gough, as we know from previous releases, trains his choir marvellously and this disc is another notable achievement. With Adrian Peacock and David Hinitt serving as producer and engineer respectively it’s no surprise that the recordings are excellent. Quite a few of these pieces will be unfamiliar to many collectors, which adds to the attraction of this splendid disc.
John Quinn
Track & performance listing
James MACMILLAN (b. 1959)
Cecilia Virgo (2012) [5:38]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Silence and Music (1953) [5:46]
Gabriel JACKSON (b. 1962)
La musique (2013)* [12:56]
Bernard ROSE (1916-1996)
Feast Song for St Cecilia (1975) [6:09]
Sir Richard Rodney BENNETT (1956-2012)
Verses on St. Cecilia’s Day (2006) [4:59]
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
There is sweet music. Op. 53/1 (1907) [5:22]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Hymn to St. Cecilia, Op. 27 (1942) [11:12]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
A Hymn for St. Cecilia (1961)** [3:10]
Sir George DYSON (1883-1964)
Live for ever, glorious Lord (1952)** [4:55]
John GARDNER (1917-2011)
A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day, Op. 119 (1973)** [4:14]
Sir Arthur BLISS (1881-1975)
Sing, mortals! (1974)** [6:03]
*Dame Felicity Lott (soprano)
**William Mason & Matthew Searles (organ)
The Choir of Royal Holloway/Rupert Gough