A Knight’s Progress Hubert PARRY (1848-1918) I was Glad [4.57] William WALTON (1902-1983) The Twelve [11.49] Nico MUHLY (b. 1981) Our Present Charter: First [4.02] Thy Kingdom Come, O God [4.21] The Beatitudes [4.22] Nullus liber homo capiatur [4.45] John TAVENER (1944-2013) Mother of God, here I stand [2.30] Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Valiant-for-Truth [5.02] Edward BAIRSTOW (1874-1946) Blessed City, heavenly Salem [8.33] Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809) Te Deum in C major [8.17]
The Temple Church Choir/Roger Sayer
Greg Morris (organ)
rec. Temple Church, London, 13, 15 June. 4, 6, 18, 20 July 2014 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD410 [58.45]
The first thing that strikes one on listening to this excellent disc is the extremely reverberant acoustic of the recording venue of London’s Temple Church – yet it soon becomes apparent that this extra resonance is not going to detract at all from the music. The programme opens with a dramatic and, indeed, gripping, rendition of Parry’s I Was Glad. The boys in particular of The Temple Church Choir are good, there is a nice layering of voices, and a pleasingly prominent organ. My only, and very small, quibble, is that the choir do not sound particularly glad or happy at all – the effect is more that of determination, as if going out to fight a battle.
This is followed by Walton’s all-too-rarely-heard The Twelve – a challenging and difficult piece. The Temple Choir rise to the occasion with an impressive and convincing performance, and the soloists are all excellent.
Our Present Charter was commissioned by the Choir from Nico Muhly to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta. It is a fairly gentle and spacious piece, very inoffensive if not particularly attention-grabbing. The choir’s intonation is occasionally a little off in this — the boys have a tendency to be a little flat on the high notes, especially A naturals — and also in the following Tavener Mother of God, here I stand, although the Tavener is otherwise given a charmingly tender performance.
Valiant-for-Truth next, and the alto soloist in this is particularly good – atmospheric and secure singing; the ensemble singing, too, is excellent in this homophonic piece of Vaughan Williams, as also in Barstow’s Blessed City, heavenly Salem.
The programme finishes with Haydn’s Te Deum in C major, which makes for a delightfully lively and happy conclusion to an admirable disc overall. In fact, I only have one real criticism, and that is the awful error in the track-listing where Vaughan Williams is hyphenated.
The good booklet notes by Peter Avis try to draw links between the composers represented, yet no overall ethos for the programme of titles is given. One can only suppose that the disc is about the progression towards the fulfilment and realisation of faith.