“Words alone cannot begin to describe the emotional and dramatic content of this outstanding programme…” Angels of Creation (Organist’s Review – Editor’s Choice)
There is a palpable freshness about this exciting and eclectic programme. Every composer brings his own harmonic and melodic palette to the table. Words alone cannot begin to describe the emotional and dramatic content of this outstanding programme. The climax comes in the form of the Stations of the Cross. A creation sans pareil, it feels so spontaneous.
It’s good to meet a more substantial work by Thomas Hewitt Jones. Many of us will know the plangent What Child is this at the end of Carols for Choirs 5. David Briggs needs no introduction. His lush Berceuse is a charming foil to his outspoken Toccata. Former Director of Music at Keble, Simon Whalley wrote the Festal Paean to show off the myriad colours of the new organ. David Bednall is no stranger to larger forms, and clearly enjoys every aspect of a well-stocked instrument. The work received its première in St Paul’s Cathedral. I love Philip Moore’s writing. He always has something fresh to say. Neil Cox’s composition is a response to the Chagall window in Chichester Cathedral which depicts Psalm 150. The climax of the programme, as if we haven’t had many already, is John Hosking’s most apposite response to the 14 Stations of the Cross.
None of this, of course, would be possible without the breath-taking input of the stunning organist, Sebastian Thomson, about whom we should know and hear much more!
“An intriguing and most rewarding disc combining Croydon Minster Choir and the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble… (Dr. Hugh Benham ★★★★★)
This is an intriguing and most rewarding disc. Combining Croydon Minster Choir and the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble is ‘an experiment’ as the sleeve note reminds us – and it is successful. Lewis Jones is to be commended on his arrangements, and Ronny Krippner on his direction.
“Beautifully written, deeply expressive of the texts… superlative performances” Dan Locklair’s Gloria (American Record Guide)
“Here is something new – American choral music recorded by English choirs.”
Here is something new – American choral music recorded by English choirs. Dan Locklair is a prominent composer who has written numerous works for nearly every medium: orchestral, chamber, instrumental, dramatic, choral, piano and organ. This is a selection of his sacred choral pieces, both a capella and accompanied, with the large-scale Gloria for choir, brass and percussion as the centerpiece of the program.
“Cesari makes it sound easy“
Review: La Folia
On James ERBER
Flourish (1986); The “Traces” Cycle (1991-2006); A Small Revelation (2012); ein andrer Hauch*(2012) Matteo Cesari (fl, picc*)
10th June 2017
Consistent in timbre across it’s range, the flute may be the ideal instrument for complex arrangements of pitch and rhythm. Traces is a mammoth hour-long three-parts opus for solo flute (2-:06, 17:57, 22:17). Everything about it suggests meditated conflict: A profusion of notes which eventually slows is balanced against a gradual but insistent introduction of different registers and volumes. Noting these gradual changes is one way to get into the material. I approach it as one might watch the leaves rustling on a tree: focusing alternately on the leaves, or branches, or the space behind the leaves, or how the leaves and branches pass through the same space as the wind blows.
Promoting contemporary organ music both ‘live’ and on disc is far from easy. Sebastian Thomson is to be congratulated in commissioning works for this CD, a collection of new works for organ. The first is David Bednall’s Rhapsody, premiered at St Paul’s Cathedral in 2010. The subsequent commissioned compositions were premiered on the organ at Keble College, also the venue of this recording. The additional works by David Briggs and Philip Moore effectively compliment the commissioned compositions.
Margaret Rizza: The Celtic Collection “Rizza’s music has a pleasing melodic facility which makes for attractive listening.” (Robert Hughill)
This is the second collection of Margaret Rizza’s music on Convivium Records, produced in collaboration with the Royal Schools of Church Music (RSCM); see my review of the first volume, Officium Divinum. On this new disc we have The Celtic Collection performed by Sarum Voices, conductor Ben Lamb, with an instrumental ensemble.
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.
Margaret is a legend in the church music world and this, her 27th album [2nd with Convivium Records], is a work of art! She has, with the help of choral director Ben Lamb, skilfully wedded the Sarum Voices and the instrumentalists and conveyed an almost spiritual unity reflecting the prayerful intentions of the songs.
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.
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 Tarney, Marco Galvani and Malcolm Archer on a journey from darkness into light.
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.
Gabriel Jackson: To the Field of Stars “An extremely attractive, richly textured work” (Choir & Organ ★★★★)
“Nonsuch Singers produce a consistently clean, bright sound and a pleasing blend that suits Jackson’s work…” (Choir & Organ ★★★★)
The centrepiece of this CD is Jackson’s To the Field of Stars, a response to the 1,000-year-old pilgrim- age to Santiago de Compostela. Divided into seven movements or ‘stations’, it traces the pilgrimage in a literal sense as well as relating to the psychologi- cal imperative of reaching a life-changing goal. The piece time-travels across the centuries by drawing on the 12th-century Codex Calixtinus as well as texts by, among others, Whitman, Cowper and Emily Dickinson. With a solo cello (Kate Gould) and percussion in the mix, the result is an extremely attractive, richly textured work of about 30 minutes’ duration. The 40 or so voices of the Nonsuch Singers are well suited to Jackson’s piece; under their director Tom Bullard they produce a consistently clean, bright sound and a pleasing blend that suits both Jackson’s work and the other pieces, all chosen for their associations with the stars and the heavens. The performers sound more engaged with Jackson’s piece and the other contemporary works (by Pärt and Dove, as well as another by Jackson) than they do in the Victoria and Byrd. Nevertheless, this is a welcome debut CD from this group.
“Deserves wider international recognition (Choir & Organ)” (★★★)
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.
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.
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.
Composer Oliver Tarney (b.1984) has made a specialism of writing choral music. In his highly effective and attractive Magnificat for chorus, soloists, piano, harp, percussion and strings, Tarney expands the text of the conventional Marian song of praise to include interpolations from apocryphal and Old Testament texts, as well as extracts from the Qur’an’s Book of Maryam. It makes for a satisfying experience, especially when the work is delivered with the conviction of the youthful musicians of the Serafine Chamber Choir and Sinfonia under Manvinder Rattan. Fine soloists too complete the line up in what is a most promising new work.
Review: Planet Hugill
ON Stanford: Sacred Choral Music (Malcolm Archer, Winchester College Chapel Choir)
24th November 2015
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.
Review: The Arts Desk
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.