Requiem - Music for All Saints and All Souls
Details after review
Gabrielle Haigh, Sophie Horrocks, Alice Halstead, Janneke Dupré
(sopranos); Eleanor Warner, Abigail Gostick (mezzos); Alexander Walmsley,
Christopher Loyn (tenors); Christopher Preston Bell, Hugo Popplewell
Matthew Jorysz, Peter Harrison (organ)
Choir of Clare College, Cambridge/Graham Ross
rec. Cathedral and Abbey Church of St. Alban, St. Albans, Hertfordshire,
17 February 2014 and All Hallows’ Church, Gospel Oak, London,
20 and 22 March 2014. DDD.
Texts and translations included
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU907617 [77:18]
Reviewed as 24/96 download, with pdf booklet, from eclassical.com.
Also available in mp3 and 16-bit downloads and from dealers on CD.
On the face of it a programme of music for All Saints
and All Souls ought not to work: though placed adjacently in the calendar,
the former is a joyful occasion, the latter a commemoration of and prayer
for the generality of the departed. In practice most of the music
here, including the major work, Victoria’s Requiem, is
for All Souls. In any case, both days will have passed by the
time that you read this review: I’m writing it on All Saints Day,
November the first.
You may also wonder whether music from such a diversity of composers
and periods would work. If you choose this recording for the Victoria,
widely and justly regarded as the greatest composition of a composer
who rivals the great Palestrina, how do the English compositions fit
in, especially the more recent ones?
The answer is that the CD is more than the sum of its parts and not
just for All Souls Day. I didn’t experience any dichotomy
as the programme moves from Victoria in the late sixteenth century to
Bullock in the twentieth and back to Dering in the early seventeenth.
Dering’s music, like Victoria’s, comes from the Counter
Reformation: English-born, his conversion to the Roman faith on a visit
to Italy meant that the 6-part works in his Cantica Sacra (1618)
show a distinct Mediterranean influence which places them not a million
miles from the style of Victoria. His Factum est silentium
receives as good a performance as any that I have heard, though I would
also point to a very fine bargain from Christ Church, Oxford, on an
anthology of Renaissance music (Regis RRC1320 – Download
News December 2010).
Two of the tracks contain settings of the All Souls lesson Justorum
animæ – the souls of the faithful departed are in the
hand of God. Thanks to recordings such as this we are beginning
to appreciate the quality of Stanford’s music. Though there
are several very distinguished recordings of this work in anthologies
of Stanford, including a notable bargain from another Cambridge college,
St John’s, on Naxos 8.555794, I enjoyed hearing the Clare recording
as much as any.
That’s true of all the other music here, but the major work, the
Mass and other sections of Victoria’s great work, the Officium
defunctorum, brings them up against some powerful opposition, almost
too numerous to mention. Without making direct comparisons, the
two uppermost in my mind as I listened to the new recording were from
Westminster Cathedral (Hyperion CDA66250 – review
of alternative release, CDA30026) and The Tallis Scholars on Gimell
(most economically obtained on a two-for-one set, CDGIM205 – Tallis
Scholars at 30 – or in a 4-CD box, GIMBX301 – Bargain
of the Month).
The Hyperion recording benefits from the all-male Westminster Choir
having been attuned ever since its inception specifically for the performance
of music for the Roman rite, without the off-colour tuning that sometimes
compromises their Spanish and Italian counterparts, and the Gimell from
its being performed by a professional group. In terms of sheer
security of tuning the Clare singers cannot compete with the Tallis
Scholars or in terms of making a ‘continental’ sound with
Westminster Cathedral. Nevertheless, though I don’t recommend
the new album for the Victoria, I’d be quite happy to take this
mixed-voice non-professional performance to my putative Desert Island.
There’s little to choose between the various members of the choir
who take the top line in different sections of the Requiem.
I do hope that Harmonia Mundi are not abandoning the format, but there
is no SACD equivalent so the only way to obtain this recording in better-than-CD
sound is to download it in 24-bit. At $20.87 as against around
£11.75 for the CD (on offer at £10.50 from Presto
as I write) and £9.19 from Qobuz for 16-bit that’s quite
a mark-up but the music and performances on this album do benefit from
the extra headroom.
Graham Ross’s notes in the booklet are short but to the point.
Eclassical.com give the timing for the Requiem as 44:14, but
they have included the concluding Libera me, which they have
also timed separately. The correct timings are listed below.
While this would not be my first choice or even a runner-up for the
main work, the Victoria Requiem or the other Renaissance music,
it certainly doesn’t disgrace itself. The programme works
surprisingly well as a whole and the more recent English works come
over well indeed.
Previous review: John
Tomás Luis de VICTORIA (1548-1611): O quam gloriosum
Ernest BULLOCK (1890-1979) Give us the wings of faith (1962)
Richard DERING (c.1580-1630) Factum est silentium (1618)
Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929-1988) Give me the wings of faith [5:30]
Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924) Justorum animæ,
Op.38/1(1892? pub. 1902) [2:50]
Edgar BAINTON (1880-1954) And I saw a new heaven [5:14]
William BYRD (1543-1623) Justorum animæ (1605) [2:36]
Alonso LOBO (1555-1617) Versa est in luctum [4:34]
Tomás Luis de VICTORIA Officium Defunctorum (1605):
Tædet animam meam [3:30]
Missa Pro Defunctis [35:03]
Officium Defunctorum: Responsorium - Libera me, Domine