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Edward Woodall NAYLOR (1867-1934)
Vox Dicentes
Vox dicentis: Clama (1911) [8:29]
Behold, God is great (1898)* [5:41]
Te Deum Laudamus in A (1902) [7:50]
Jubilate Deo in A (1902) [4:06]
We have heard with our ears (1925)* [9:20]
Magnificat in A (1903?) [3:38]
Nunc dimittis in A (1903?) [3:00]
I will cause the shower to come down (1913)* [4:23]
This is the month, and this the happy morn (1913)* [4:24]
Benedicite in G [7:08]
O Jerusalem, look about thee (1894)* [6:15]
And there shall be signs (1903)* [4:56]
Christ both died, and rose (1895)* [4:47]
Final Responses – Ferial [0:49]
Final Responses – Festal [0:46]
The Choir of Emmanuel College, Cambridge/Richard Latham
George Lacey and Adam Mathias (organ)
rec. 2013, Chapel of Emmanuel College, Cambridge
Texts and English translations included
* denotes first recording
REGENT REGCD426 [75:34]

It’s entirely appropriate that this disc, the first devoted entirely to the music of Edward Woodall Naylor, should be the work of the Choir of Emmanuel College, Cambridge because Naylor had a long and close connection with the college. He studied there as an undergraduate and after further studies at the Royal College of Music (1888-1892) he soon returned to his old college when he was appointed Organist of Emmanuel College in 1898. He remained in that post until his death.

I confess that I knew very little about either Naylor or his music – with the exception of his anthem Vox dicentis: Clama. It’s helpful, therefore, that the booklet accompanying this CD includes a quite full biographical sketch by Rev. Raymond Hockley (1929-2012), sometime Chaplain of Emmanuel College; the sketch is drawn from a much larger biographical study of Naylor which was left incomplete when Hockley died. Thanks to Rev. Hockley I learned that Naylor was born into a family of musicians, not the least of whom was his father, John Naylor (1838-1897), who was Organist of York Minster from 1883 to 1897. Edward Naylor appears to have been a very gifted man. He was a highly accomplished pianist and organist, a well-regarded teacher, the author of a number of books and a composer and conductor. During his time at Emmanuel the chapel organ was rebuilt to his design. He composed music in a number of genres, including opera, works for chorus and orchestra and, of course, church music. Most of his output is now forgotten and it’s good to have the chance to hear some of it on this disc.

One observation by Rev. Hockley interested me. He writes that “[Naylor’s] intellectual vigour and his constant appearance on the public stage, either as lecturer, conductor or performer, give the impression of a confident, almost sanguine man. But this would seem to be a false picture. Apparently, he was shy, self-effacing and hated publicity.” I have to say that the music presented here does not sound like the work of a self-effacing man; frequently the tone is forthright, even robust, and the music always sounds confident.

It seems that Naylor was well regarded by A H Mann, Organist and Director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge between 1876 and 1929, for several of the pieces on Richard Latham’s programme were composed for King’s. These include the two short Final Responses, with which the programme ends. More significantly, the ‘Mag’ and ‘Nunc’ in A were written for Mann and his choir as was the piece on which Naylor’s reputation largely rests today, Vox dicentis: Clama. It’s unsurprising that this anthem for the Advent and Christmas seasons has endured because it’s an impressive piece. Scored for eight-part unaccompanied choir, it shows a fine sense of drama. The Emmanuel choir give a good account of it; the opening is confident and strong while the quieter passages also impress with some well-focussed singing. Towards the end the solo soprano and tenor parts are well taken, especially the former. To be truthful, nothing that follows surpasses Naylor’s achievement here.

That’s not to say that the remainder of the programme is second rate; that would be grossly unfair. However, in his useful notes on the music John Lees compares the very next piece, Behold, God is great with the music of Goss and Stainer and I think he’s right to do so, though it must be acknowledged that this piece was written rather earlier in Naylor’s career.

The Te Deum was written for the Commemoration Service at St Catherine’s College, Cambridge in 1902. It gets off to a suitably vigorous and celebratory start. A little later there’s a flowing, melodic episode introduced by the sopranos at ‘The glorious company of the Apostles’. However, John Lees rightly points out that “Naylor is not Stanford and does not have the tight formal sense of his contemporary’s settings of the same text.” Nonetheless, Naylor’s is a confident and attractive setting.

We have heard with our ears opens with a forthright tune, treated fugally over a moving organ part. I think, however, that the material is rather over-worked, especially since Naylor reprises it after a more reflective central section. There’s rather too much repetition in this piece, I fear; some editorial pruning would have helped. The Magnificat written for King’s is unaccompanied and the concise nature of Naylor’s setting is admirable. More arresting, however, is the companion Nunc dimittis which has a particularly effective quiet opening. Here each of the eight vocal parts enters successively after which Naylor builds the intensity of the music impressively.

The Benedicite is a difficult text to set because its very nature invites repetition – though not all composers fall into this trap. I’m afraid Naylor doesn’t avoid the trap and his straightforward, unpretentious setting is, for me, insufficiently varied. Several of the pieces include solo passages and one of the most striking is the extended soprano solo in the middle of O Jerusalem, look about thee. All the solos are well taken but this particular singer, Charlotte Bröker, is particularly accomplished. And there shall be signs is an Advent anthem which finds Naylor writing in a similarly dramatic vein to Vox dicentis: Clama. It’s a big piece, even though it plays for less than five minutes, and it includes a very challenging organ part which is excitingly despatched by Adam Mathias, one of the college’s two Organ Scholars.

Even if Vox dicentis: Clama represents the peak of Naylor’s achievement there’s still a good deal of worthwhile music on this disc. His cause is well served by Richard Latham and his choir. The choir consists of 28 singers (10/6/6/8) and they give a good account of themselves. Just occasionally the tone seems to harden a little under pressure – in the Magnificat, for instance – and there were a few occasions when it seemed to me that the sopranos’ pitching was fractionally under the note. But the singing is always committed and it’s evident that Richard Latham has trained this student choir very well; I enjoyed their performances.

Collectors who value the music of the English Church should find much to enjoy here. The recorded sound is good, as is the documentation.

John Quinn

 

 




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