Four Thousand Winter
Hodie Christus natus est [1:12]
Sir John TAVENER (1944-2015)
The Lamb [4:57]
Matthew MARTIN (b. 1976)
Adam lay ybounden [3:47]
Boris ORD (1896-1961)
Adam lay ybounden [1:31]
Thomas TALLIS (1505-1585)
Videte miraculum [14:23]
William BYRD (1540-1623)
Ave Maria [2:30]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
The truth from above [3:12]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
A spotless rose [2:58]
Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621)
Es ist ein Ros entsprungen [3:56]
John JOUBERT (b. 1927)
There is no rose [3:15]
There is no rose of swych vertu [5:03]
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
In the bleak midwinter [5:09]
Matthew LARKIN (b. 1964)
Adam lay ybounden [4:04]
O Radix Jesse [1:25]
The Trinity Choir/Daniel Taylor
rec. 12-14 August 2015, St. Alban the Martyr, London
Texts and English translations included
SONY CLASSICAL 88875 178222 [57:30]
It may seem odd to write a review of a disc of Christmas music in February but this disc did not arrive with me until well after the Christmas celebrations were over. In any event, Daniel Taylor points out in his booklet essay the links between the Christian feast of Christmas, the Winter Solstice and the Winter season in general so I hope that vindicates my tardiness to some extent.
Besides his highly successful career as a counter-tenor Daniel Taylor has developed a parallel career as a conductor. He formed The Trinity Choir in 2015 and its hand-picked membership comprises professional singers who have frequently sung as members of such elite ensembles as The Monteverdi Choir, The Sixteen, The Tallis Scholars and The Gabrieli Consort. With such a pedigree it’s unsurprising that this disc is marked by technical excellence and high standards of musicianship.
The carefully chosen programme includes some sub-groups of pieces. One such comprises the settings of Adam lay ybounden. I’ve heard Matthew Martin’s piece before and once again it impresses here. The music is slow and rather mysterious – Daniel Taylor refers to its “cavernous sublimity”. I’d never heard before the setting by the Canadian composer and organist, Matthew Larkin. It’s a haunting composition for high voices in which the music moves in long, slowly undulating lines. I’m glad both of these interesting pieces were included. Boris Ord’s take on the medieval text needs no introduction. Here it receives a performance that is refined and smooth – perhaps just a little too smooth?
Another grouping features settings inspired by the association of the rose with Christ’s birth. The performances of these carols are all excellent – the Joubert setting is beautifully poised. However, the central solo verse of the Howells piece, which is very well sung indeed, is taken at a speed that is markedly slower than the music that precedes and follows it. I can’t recall that treatment before; it’s not successful. Incidentally, Daniel Taylor himself is one of the two solo voices in There is no rose of swych vertu.
The inclusion of Tavener’s famous little piece, The Lamb, was directly inspired, we are told, by the composer’s own recording in which he conducts The Tallis Scholars (review). I wish that Taylor had followed the composer’s example more closely for he takes the piece at a very slow tempo indeed and thereby rather loses the flow of the music. He takes 4:57 whereas Tavener himself got all the necessary nuances and expression out of the piece in just 3:42.
At the heart of the programme lies Tallis’s glorious and expansive Videte miraculum. Though I felt that Taylor is too slow in the Tavener he paces the Tallis perfectly. He and his expert singers unfold the long paragraphs in a wonderfully spacious manner. Everything seems to be in perfect equilibrium. Tallis’s timeless devotional music is very well served here. So too is William Byrd in his equally devotional but much more intimate Ave Maria.
These are very fine performances of lovely music for the Christmas season. With a couple of exceptions I find Daniel Taylor’s touch as a conductor is sure and his expert singers serve him very well indeed. Their singing has been very pleasingly recorded in the benign resonance of the church of St. Alban the Martyr.
Unfortunately there are a few glitches concerning the presentation of the disc. The most glaring is that on the track-listing the Howells and Praetorius items are mixed up; they are sung in the order that they appear in this track-listing. Also Daniel Taylor’s thoughtful booklet essay should have been subject to better proof-reading.
I hope there will be more recordings from Daniel Taylor and The Trinity Choir.