One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here
Google seem to have closed down local search engines. You can use this FreeFind engine but it is not so comprehensive
You can go to Google itself and enter the search term followed by the search term.


International mailing

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

Some items
to consider

Piano Concertos 1 and 2
Surprise Best Seller and now

A Garland for John McCabe


DIETHELM Symphonies

The best Rite of Spring in Years

BACH Magnificat

Brian Symphs 8, 21, 26

Just enjoy it!

La Mer Ticciati




simply marvellous

Outstanding music

Elite treatment

some joyous Gershwin

Bartok String Quartets
uniquely sensitive

Cantatas for Soprano


REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Christmas at Norwich
The Choir of Norwich Cathedral/Ashley Grote
David Dunnett (organ)
rec. 19-21 January 2015, Norwich Cathedral
Texts included
Full track-listing appended
PRIORY PRCD1148 [79:49]

Intended to function as “a snapshot of what Christmas at Norwich Cathedral is all about” (from conductor Ashley Grote’s excellent booklet notes), this disc mixes the familiar, indeed the expected, with a goodly selection of lesser-known choral works around the Christmas theme. Generous fare, too, coming in just shy of 80 minutes playing time.

Once in David’s Royal City (with Stephen Cleobury’s descant) begins with the silken thread of a boy treble, here the splendid Angus Murphy-Lennox. The choral sound is warm, but somewhat blurred. This carol is however lustily sung, particularly from the male contingent. The ‘bigger’ carols (God Rest You Merry Gentlemen and The First Nowell in the David Willcocks arrangements amongst the others) can seem to get lost in an acoustic soup. Yet Ashley Grote’s arrangement of While Shepherd’s Watched bucks the trend, offering fascinating harmonies in the more hushed, contrasting sections. The Sussex Carol is brisker than often heard, but is very effective, especially the silvery descending organ figures.

The encapsulation of all things chorally Christmas, John Rutter, is perhaps an inevitable presence on any Yuletide musical excursion. What sweeter music is perhaps one of his lesser well-known efforts but has that gentle warmth one associates with this composer/arranger. Its close is handled with true sensitivity, the diminuendo into nothing superbly managed by all. His gentle Dormi Jesu is one of the highlights of the disc, tender and intimate; the way phrases seem to blossom, flower-like, is particularly impressive.

Michael Nicholas (b.1938) was Organist and Master of Music at Norwich from 1971 to 1994. His appealing People look East features a slightly untidy treble line - to hummed accompaniment. The inclusion of music by William Mathias is to be welcomed: his A babe is born offers more taxing challenges to the listener than most items on the programme, and one emerges all the more enriched for it. The performance is exemplary.

Peter Aston’s Make we Joye is a wonderful piece, full of delight. Aston died in 2013, and was Professor of Music at the University of East Anglia and a Lay Canon of the Cathedral. Grote is quite right to describe this piece as “faux-medieval”, and as a study in this it is at once successful and massively enjoyable.

The mystic gentleness of Peter Warlock’s Bethlehem Down is particularly well managed here; it leads to a rather less successful account of Grote’s Cradle Song, wherein the choral sound comes across as rather insubstantial. The Grote leads seamlessly into Silent Night, in fairness, heard here in a slow, almost meditative version.

Simon Preston’s arrangement of I saw three ships is remarkably complex, taking an ostensibly simple piece and elevating it to heights one would not have thought possible. There is the definite sense here that the Norwich choristers are relishing the challenge. The next item, Willcocks’ arrangement of O Come, All Ye Faithful, seems in context like something of a retreating.

Closing on Hark the Herald is a favourite trick for carol services, and the nations do indeed seem to be rising joyfully here, particularly in the sweet harmonic scrunchings of the final pages. There are few disappointments on this disc. Perhaps Vaughan Williams’ This is the truth sent from above is gentle but rather anonymous, and there is the somewhat swimmy acoustic in the larger pieces. Yet let not this put you off – there is music aplenty to enjoy.

Colin Clarke

Trad Once in Royal David’s City (descant: Stephen Cleobury); Of the Father’s heart begotten; God rest ye merry, gentlemen; The First Nowell; O come, all ye faithful (arr. David Willcocks); While shepherds watched; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (arr. Grote); Silent Night (arr. Dunnett); I saw three ships (arr. Preston)
Vaughan Williams This is the truth sent from above; O little town of Bethlehem
Philip Ledger Sussex Carol
John Rutter What sweeter music; Dormi Jesu
Michael Nicholas People look East
Herbert Howells A spotless Rose
Peter Aston Make we joye
William Mathias A babe is born
Michael Head The little road to Bethlehem
Bob Chilcott The Shepherd’s Carol
Richard Allain Balulalow
Peter Warlock Bethlehem Down
Ashley Grote Cradle Song
Ben Parry Venite adoremus



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on

Donate and get a free CD


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
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
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger