Latest Reviews | Convivium Records International

“Sansara slips easily into the elite ranks of exceptional performers” (Choir & Organ ★★★★★)

The award-winning chamber choir Sansara slips easily into the elite ranks of exceptional performers. Formed in 2013, its strength lies in its breathtaking interpretations of the music and the quality of the singers’ voices. Sansara’s debut disc, Cloths of Heaven, presents an imaginatively designed programme themed as darkness to light that moves across the centuries, starting with the Introitus from Manuel Cardosa’s Requiem Mass and ending with MacMillan’s radiant Lux Aeterna. This journey features the glorious polyphony of Byrd and Gombert, passing on to Bach, Rheinberger and Rudolf Mauersberger, whose heart-rending setting of Wie liegt die Stadt so wüst is given an outstanding interpretation. Nor are the younger generation of composers forgotten: Cheryl Frances-Hoad, and Sansara’s two associate composers, Marco Galvani and Oliver Tarney, sit comfortably alongside the masters of the past with their creative invention.

Shirley Ratcliffe

Choir & Organ – 1 May 2017

Notes to Editors

Choir & Organ
Choir & Organ is the leading independent magazine for all professionals and amateurs in the choral and organ worlds – whether you are an organist, choral director or singer, organ builder, keen listener, or work in publishing or the record industry, Choir & Organ is a must-read wherever you live and work.

Every two months our expert contributors bring you beautifully illustrated features on newly built and restored organs, insights into the lives and views of leading organists, choral directors and composers, profiles of pioneering and well-established choirs, and topical coverage of new research, festivals and exhibitions. In keeping with our commitment to music at the cutting edge, we commission a new work from a young composer in every issue, making the score freely available for download and performance.

Our international news and previews, with breaking stories, key awards and forthcoming premieres, combine with reviews of the latest CDs, DVDs and sheet music, and listings of recitals, festivals and courses, to keep you up to date with events and developments around the world.

Convivium Records
Convivium Records, 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.

Media Enquiries, Review Copies & Contact
For press enquiries, information, or to request review copies of this work, please visit www.conviviumrecords.co.uk or contact John Bevan, Communications Director: john@conviviumrecords.co.uk | T. 0772 089 2226

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Margaret Rizza: The Celtic Collection “Excellent committed performances” (MusicWeb International)

It is not always perfectly clear what is meant by describing something as ‘Celtic’. Scholars have questioned whether the term is an appropriate one, yet have found across Europe certain similarities in lifestyle and artistic expression, especially in the first millennium after Christ. It is a question for historians whether we have projected back into history a Romantic notion of a civilisation that did not truly exist.

‘Celtic’ tends to be associated– especially in these islands – Irish and Welsh culture. The concept has developed beyond a fascination with Gaelic, Gallic and Welsh roots into an interest in ‘Celtic spirituality’, something which combines both Christian practice with some pagan traditions. It is often fused with ahistoric New Age ideas, which owe more to California than to the Gaeltacht.

What Margaret Rizza has done is to concentrate on the specifically Christian aspect of the ‘Celtic’ connection. Several of the works here are settings of prayers attributed to St Patrick, while others are traditional to Ireland. Some are modern, by Margaret Rizza, or David Adams.

Rizza began composition relatively late in life. For a quarter of a century she sang as Margaret Lensky – thereafter she worked in voice teaching and encouraging the formation of various choirs, including the London Camerata. She understands the voice – and it shows. She has a particular interest in music for spiritual, faithful and meditative purposes. The Royal School of Church Music has published much of her work and this CD has been produced under RSCM auspices.

The music itself is charming, in a conservative style deeply influenced by the sounds of Church music of the last thousand years. If one heard a single piece, it would be near impossible to relate it to a particular century, though the sensibility is often modern. No matter – this CD will give immense pleasure, especially for reflective moments. If there is a fault, it is that 79 minutes of music of similar pace and grace could be too much of a good thing, but the listener can dip in and out.

Performances are committed and excellent. Instrumentation is both skilfully deployed and well-blended with the voices. The Sarum Voices – 15 singers in all – have splendid articulation and bloom, and the recording venue suits the music very well. Production values are very high – there is nothing remotely amateur here.

I still have the faint niggle about the ‘Celtic’ claim, rather as I do when someone tells me that he has written a ‘new folk song’, which seems not a song to have risen out of the traditions of the ‘folk’ (whoever they may be) – but it does not diminish in any way my delight in this lovely, melodic and sometimes moving music.

Notes to Editors

MusicWeb International
MusicWeb International was founded by Dr Len Mullenger in 1995, as a website for the William Alwyn Society, and hosted on the servers of the University of Coventry. From these humble beginnings, it has developed, purely on a volunteer basis, into the largest non-commercial classical music resource on the web.

Every weekday we post new classical CD and DVD reviews (usually 10) – there are more than 40,000 in the archive. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail.

Unlike at least one of our peers, MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free, please support us by purchasing discs from our partners Amazon, MDT, ArkivMusic, Classicsonline, eClassical and The Classical Shop, via the sales links on the review pages.

Convivium Records
Convivium Records, 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.

Media Enquiries, Review Copies & Contact
For press enquiries, information, or to request review copies of this work, please visit www.conviviumrecords.co.uk or contact John Bevan, Communications Director: john@conviviumrecords.co.uk | T. 0772 089 2226

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Sansara: Cloths of Heaven (The Guardian ★★★★)

It’s not hard to find outstanding professional choral singing (we seem to be living through a golden age) so to stand out today a new choir has to have something else to offer in addition to perfect intonation and a clean, pure sound. Sansara, while possessing these qualities in abundance, marks itself out by having no single conductor. Instead, several individuals step out from the choir and direct according to their specialism, giving this impressive debut recording a real depth of insight. Careful narrative programming is also a plus, introducing us to several spectacular new pieces from Oliver TarneyMarco Galvani and Malcolm Archer on a journey from darkness into light.

Notes to Editors

The Guardian
The Guardian is a British daily newspaper, known from 1821 until 1959 as the Manchester Guardian. Along with its sister papers The Observer and The Guardian Weekly, The Guardian is part of the Guardian Media Group, owned by The Scott Trust Limited.

Convivium Records
Convivium Records, 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.

Media Enquiries, Review Copies & Contact
For press enquiries, information, or to request review copies of this work, please visit www.conviviumrecords.co.uk or contact John Bevan, Communications Director: john@conviviumrecords.co.uk | T. 0772 089 2226

Follow Us
For latest news follow Convivium Records:
Facebook www.facebook.com/ConviviumRecords
Twitter www.twitter.com/ConviviumUK

Angels of Creation (Choir & Organ ★★★★★)

The Review

It is rare that one hears such a gratifying combination of new music, new organ and young player. Sebastian Thomson impresses in not only performing this collection of pieces with great verve, but also being responsible for their commission.

Dan Locklair: Gloria (Choir & Organ ★★★)

“Deserves wider international recognition (Choir & Organ)” (★★★)

The Review

Still best known outside America for the piece played at Ronald Reagan’s funeral, Dan Locklair deserves wider international recognition. The selection here rather buries the Gloria in a mixed programme, though there is a logical connection from The Isaiah Canticles to the main work. All the choirs involved give the music full commitment, adding to the impression of a composer who creates ruggedly singable melodies (the congregational swell of Ubi caritas is genuinely stirring) but who also touches deeper feelings with surprising delicacy. The closing The Lord Bless You And Keep You will be noted down by many as a favourite for their own obsequies.

To the Field of Stars “Distinguished debut disc” (MusicWeb International)

The Review

It was only a few months ago that belatedly I caught up with a recording of Gabriel Jackson’s To the field of stars.

That was a recording made in February 2014 by the S:t Jacobs Chamber Choir, one of the three choirs that co-commissioned the piece. It’s not all that often that a substantial modern choral work quickly receives a second recording but here we have a second account of Jackson’s work, made within a few months of the Swedish version. The Nonsuch Singers gave the UK premiere of the work in October 2013 and with commendable enterprise they’ve chosen to make it the centrepiece of their debut recording.

Tarney Magnificat: Highly-Accessible

Tarney: Magnificat
Reviewed by Stuart Millson, The Quarterly Review

Jan 2016

Listen and Buy now on Convivium Records
Stream now on Spotify

The Review

New talent in the arts abounds in Britain, and an exciting disc has been passed on to The QR’s CD review pile: the Magnificat, by young British composer, Oliver Tarney (born in 1984).

Available from Convivium Records and recorded at the Church of the Holy Spirit, Clapham, South London, Tarney’s choral-orchestral work is a highly-accessible (twelve-part) confluence of several spiritual traditions – the composer keen to find common ground between “the three Abrahamic religions” and, as he writes in the sleeve notes, “a proclamation of ecstatic joy… a symbol of faith in the face of uncertainty and of strength in the face of adversity”. Bringing this music to the recording studio is an inspirational conductor, and teacher of community choirs, Manvinder Rattan, and the Serafine Chamber Choir and Sinfonia (a new ensemble for this reviewer). The Magnificat has percussive, modern gestures – a reminder, perhaps, of the style of Karl Jenkins (well known for rhythmic choral works, such as The Armed Man) – but also moments that bring to mind the style of Benjamin Britten and the pure “holy water” of veteran Estonian composer, the deeply-religious Arvo Pärt. There is much for the choir and soloists to do in the manner of a large-scale oratorio, but I feel that it is in the private, reflective, mysterious moments of the score – the parts when the music feels like a whisper or a confiding of an idea – that Oliver Tarney reaches a true depth of feeling.

Stanford: Beautiful, Excellent and sometimes frightening

The Review

This new selection of anthems and canticles by Charles Villiers Stanford is thoroughly enjoyable. It includes three premiere recordings, although what these are, is not stated on the liner-notes or track-listings – at least I could not find this information.

Fortunately, the Stanford Society posts details of them on its website (accessed 23 December 2015).

Stanford: Sacred Choral Music (★★★★)

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Review: Planet Hugill
(Robert Hugill)
ON Stanford: Sacred Choral Music (Malcolm Archer, Winchester College Chapel Choir)

24th November 2015

Stanford’s sacred choral music has remained one of the staples of church, chapel and cathedral choirs everywhere. On this new disc from Convivium RecordsMalcolm Archer (director of chapel music at Winchester College) directs the choir of Winchester College Chapel in a varied programme including the Benedictus and Te Deum from the Service in C, the Three Latin Motets, Op.38, and anthems For lo, I raise up, Op.145, Come, ye thankful people come, If ye then be risen with Christ and The Lord is my Shepherd. The organist is Jamal Sutton, assistant director of chapel music at Winchester College. 

Born in Dublin in 1852, Stanford’s initial musical education was at Christ Church Cathedral and St Patrick’s Cathedral. He received an organ scholarship to Queen’s College, Cambridge in 1870 and moved to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1873 and revitalised the choir there. Throughout his life, Stanford returned to church music and one of the reasons why the music has remained so enduring is the outside influences he brought to it so that, for instance, his services are sometimes symphonic in their treatment.

The programme on this disc is quite varied mixing sacred songs and anthems, with music from the Service in C and Stanford’s late Three Latin Motets. The programme mixes the various elements up so that the three Latin motets are scattered through the disc.

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Iberian Colours ‘A seriously impressive disc…’

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Review: The Arts Desk
(Graham Rickson)
ON Iberian Colours (Maria Camahort Quintet)

15th August 2015

Catalan composer Federico Mompou is one of classical music’s best-kept secrets – if you’ve not sampled his restrained, elegant piano output, you should snap up Arcadi Volodos’s brilliant Sony anthology. Guitarist Maria Camahort presents us with three short Mompou pieces, in arrangements which expand the originals’ scope without diluting their essence. The Catalan popular songs which Mompou transcribed are now sung. There’s some loss of intimacy but you imagine that the composer would have approved.

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Robert Hugill on ‘Iberian Colours’ (★★★★)

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Review: Planet Hugill
(Robert Hugill)
ON Iberian Colours (Maria Camahort Quintet)

21st May 2015

Quintet of musicians from different traditions bringing a new twist to 20th century and contemporary Spanish music.

This rather interesting disc, Iberian Colours, is an attempt to get a different flavour to the various different styles of Spanish music and move away from the more stereotypical. The Maria Camahort Quintet is a group of five singers and instrumentalists from different musical traditions who have come together on this disc, on Convivium Records, to give rather distinctive interpretations of music by Frederic Mompou, Eduard Toldra, Feliu Gasull, Chano Dominguez, Manuel de Falla, Enrique Granados and Maria Camahort herself, plus traditional Catalan and Spanish songs.

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Stanford: Choral Music “Highly professional and a credit to all concerned” (Cathedral Music)

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Review: Cathedral Music (Timothy Storey)
ON Stanford: Choral Music (Malcolm Archer, Jamal Sutton, Winchester College Chapel Choir)

21st May 2015

Most readers are surely aware that this is no ordinary school choir. The treble line is supplied by the quiristers, boys who are educated at The Pilgrims’ School along with Winchester Cathedral’s choristers, and the alto, tenor and bass parts are provided by senior pupils of Winchester College (and a few members of staff); the result is highly professional and a credit to all concerned.

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Winchester College Chapel Choir “stand comparison with any cathedral choir”

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Review: Cross Rhythms 7/10
(Steven Whitehead)
Stanford: Sacred Choral Music (Malcolm Archer, Jamal Sutton, Winchester College Chapel Choir)

1st October 2014

Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) was a prolific and popular composer within the Anglican choral tradition and the chances are that if you have any sort of collection of sacred choral music or traditional hymn singing you will already have some of Stanford’s work. This pleasant collection includes some of Stanford’s best-known choral music alongside a number of works that are rarely performed and recorded. It has been supported by the Stanford Society and the programme notes have been compiled by Professor Jeremy Dibble, a leading authority on the composer’s music. Winchester College Quiristers (trebles) have for over 625 years sung services in Winchester College Chapel. In modern times they have formed a choir (Winchester College Chapel Choir) renowned for its excellence, under the direction of Malcolm Archer. On three occasions since the Millennium, Quiristers have won the title of BBC Young Chorister Of The Year, by any standards an outstanding record. The choir stand comparison with any cathedral choir and those who appreciate traditional (code for all male) Anglican choral music will enjoy this release. I particularly enjoyed “Watts’ Cradle Song” and the setting of “Psalm 150” but there are better tunes for “Oh! For A Closer Walk With God” and “The Lord Is My Shepherd” available. The “Benedictus In C” and “Te Deum In C” are both of their time (late Victorian/Edwardian) but that is of course inevitable when presenting a retrospective collection such as this. As I have said, if you enjoy traditional church choral music or are an admirer of C V Stanford you will enjoy this very much but those listening for general interest may find it too much of a muchness.

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Plainsong: The Echo of Angels “Well executed & Beautifully sung” (RSCM CMQ)

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Review: RSCM Church Music Quarterly
ON HODIE! Plainsong: The Echo of Angels (David Price, Oliver Hancock, Portsmouth Cathedral Choir)

1st March 2015

This disc presents some of the best-loved and most exquisite plainsong melodies in various guises, including: a cappella, with organ accompaniment, and woven into compositions. Some tracks are sung in English, others in Latin (and the Kyries are sung in Greek, of course). The music includes the Advent Prose, Lent Prose, Missa de Angelis, Missa Deus Genitor Alme, and a couple of psalms. The compositions based on plainsong are mostly by conductor David Price, though the disc ends with an organ piece, Meditation on ‘Adoro Te Devote’ by Arthur Wills. The music is beautifully sung with every word clearly enunciated, though some of the tempi are on the slow side, particularly those tracks sung in English with organ accompaniment. The accompaniments themselves are very well executed, with several of them improvised.

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A Multitude of Voices “Accomplished & Well Recorded” (MusicWeb International)

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Review: MusicWeb International (John Quinn)
ON A Multitude of Voices (Sospiri, Chris Watson, Susanna Fairbairn & Fournier Trio)

18th February 2015

In 2013 I reviewed a fine disc by Christopher Watson and Sospiri, entitled The Lost City – Lamentations Through the Ages. I mentioned then that I had learned from their website that they had plans for a project to commission a number of composers to write pieces commemorating the centenary of the Great War with a view to recording them all. Here are the fruits of that project, though not all the composers whose names were first associated with the project are now represented; perhaps their pieces will materialise in due course.

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Rizza’s Officium Divinum “finely shaped, flexible and beautifully focussed performances”

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Review: Planet Hugill
(Robert Hugill)
ON Officium Divinum (Margaret Rizza Officium Divinum; Convivium Singers, Eamonn Dougan; Convivium Singers)

23rd January 2015

Conceived by the RSCM and based on Common Worship, Margaret Rizza’s music transcends its usefulness.

There is a term in German, gebrauchsmusik, which translates roughly as useful or needful music, that is music written for a particular purpose. There is no quite parallel term in English where the term carries a sort of sense of put-down which doesn’t really occur in German. Much church music is gebrauchsmusik, well written, suitable for its function, providing musical interest but never overshadowing the primary liturgical purpose. This disc of music by Margaret Rizza on Convivium Records is gebrauchsmusik; it was written for use, designed for a particular liturgical purpose. But that does not mean that we cannot derive pleasure from it as casual listeners, in fact there is certainly much to enjoy and in extremely fine performances too.
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Plainsong: The Echo of Angels “Thoughtful, Imaginative” (★★★★)

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Review: Planet Hugill
(Robert Hugill)
ON Plainsong: The Echo of Angels (David Price, Oliver Hancock, William Wallace, Portsmouth Cathedral Choirs)

10th December 2014

Different churches and different denominations use plainchant in different ways. This new disc on Convivium Records from Portmouth Cathedral Choir under their director of music, David Price, gives a lovely snapshot of the choir performing music which is central to their regular worship. The plainchant on the disc is varied, ranging from theAdvent Prose and Lent Prose, to Veni Creator Spiritus, the Missa de Angelis and Psalm 42 and sung in both Latin and English. The Cathedral Choir is joined by singers from Cantate, the cathedral’s youth choir and the organ accompaniments are provided by Oliver Hancock and William Wallace. (more…)

James Bowman (Writing Exclusively for Cathedral Music Magazine)

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Article: Cathedral Music ON 'Thus Angels Sung' (James Bowman & Malcolm Archer)

20th November 2014

I have been involved with music in cathedrals for most of my singing life. This recording, whilst not exclusively devoted to cathedral music, does contain quite a few sacred items which have meant a great deal to me over the years; I wanted to record them before it was too late.

PGS Hodie! “genuinely impressive”, “essential listening” (★★★)

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Review: RSCM Church Music Quarterly (Christopher Maxim)
ON HODIE! Contemporary Christmas Carols (Sam Galdstone, Oliver Hancock, The Portsmouth Grammar School Chamber Choir)

1st December 2014

Music is clearly an important part of the life of The Portsmouth Grammar School, given the standards of performance achieved on this disc – one could be listening to a cathedral choir. Indeed, it is no surprise that several members also sing in Portsmouth Cathedral Choir and Cantate, the Cathedral Youth Choir. While there are occasions when the youth of the tenors and basses is betrayed (and their youthful timbres are no bad thing!), the maturity of the sound that they produce is impressive and a testimony to the quality of the training that the pupils receive.

With music by (among others) Tarik O’Regan (Ecce puer), Eric Whitacre (Lux aurumque), Paul Edwards (No small wonder), Bob Chilcott (O little town), Will Todd (My Lord has come), Thomas Hewitt Jones (In the bleak midwinter), Richard Rodney Bennett (Coventry Carol), Malcolm Archer (Angels, from the realms of glory), and Alexander L’Estrange (Hodie!), the repertoire is of a standard that a cathedral or adult chamber choir would be proud to programme. The quality of the music-making on this disc is genuinely impressive.

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