Thus Angels Sung (CR019)
Review by Catherine Bott
Listen and buy on Convivium Records
James Bowman’s uniquely plangent counter-tenor voice has been essential listening on record and cd for 45 years, his singing magnificent in operas by Handel and Britten, thrilling in medieval music with David Munrow, deeply moving in sacred works by Bach. In this beautifully recorded recital he offers what he calls “a disparate collection of odds and ends”, chosen, he says, “simply because I happened to like them and wanted to record them.”
Disparate, yes, but the composers of the 23 tracks on this cd represent the cream of our native composers, from Orlando Gibbons and Edward Elgar, along with three songs by Bowman’s sensitive accompanist Malcolm Archer.
Much of the music is devotional, reminding us that long before James Bowman embarked on a starry international career, he was a boy chorister. Church music remains his daily bread, and the heartfelt simplicity of his singing on this recording shows that although his choirstall days may be long behind him, his artistry remains undimmed.
Don’t be alarmed by the valedictory tone of songs like Vaughan Williams’s Dirge for Cybele (Fear no more the heat of the sun). This recital proves that James Bowman is still a golden lad. Thus angels sung.
Catherine Bott, 15th August 2014
Catherine Bott studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and then spent two years singing everything from Bach to Berio with the Swingles before beginning her solo career. She is recognised as a virtuoso of early music: among her many recordings in this field are Bach’s St. John Passion with the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea with Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with the Academy of Ancient Music. She has also premiered and recorded works by contemporary composers Craig Armstrong, Jonathan Dove, Michael Nyman and Errollyn Wallen.
Other CD releases include a cabaret recital, London Pride, for Hyperion – “an utter delight, outstanding” (International Record Review) – and a collection of Spanish and Moorish songs and poetry, Convivencia, for the innovative new Fred label – ”a rare commitment worthy of spoken theatre” (Gramophone).
These days, Catherine Bott’s speaking voice can regularly be heard on radio. Between 2003 and 2013 she wrote and presented more than 300 editions of Radio 3’s long-running Early Music Show and was one of the regular presenters of live evening concerts. In 2013 she signed a long-term contract with Classic FM, where her Sunday-night programme, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Classical Music, explores a different topic each week, from the evolution of the overture to Elgar’s vocal music. She also presents The Full Works Concert every Thursday and Friday.
Catherine continues to make feature programmes for Radio 4, where she is a member of the Pick of the Week presenting team. She is a Fellow of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and an Honorary Fellow of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
Visit website: catherinebott.com
Convivium Records is a private recording, production, and distribution label, based in London, UK, provides cost conscious opportunities for composers, performers, educators and students to release and market their music on disc and online globally to professional studio standard. With a range of label artists from contemporary British composers to cathedral choirs, performers and vocal ensembles, the label offers expertise across all aspects of private and commercial productions, with a team of engineers, performers, directors, producers and designers supporting projects from concept to album delivery and marketing.
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