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BASIL RAMSEY listens to choirs from both cities

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Turning to Clare College at Cambridge, there is no disparity in quality of singing - young men and women of today with interest and willingness to learn the art of choral ensemble do it so well and with a freshness of approach that tells. Obviously the work involved is hard yet the challenge is met and the results now regularly on record are of high quality.

illumina - The Choir of Clare College Cambridge. Copyright (c) 1999 Collegium RecordsEvidence is strong on the Illumina disc. To take the last track first, Ligeti's Lux aeterna makes no concessions, either to singers or listeners. It casts its own soundworld, projects it vividly, and then leaves us to react. We cannot object to that, especially with a performance that was clearly preceded by weeks of preparation and rehearsal. It delivers with assurance, and Ligeti's conception in 1966 of space and distance with sounds slowly changing and merging was then new, and this recording, especially in a resonant building, lends a mysterious aura that shimmers as it slowly dies away.

The theme of this collection is musical luminosity arising from traditions that contributed to worship from the Middle Ages to the present. It is a powerful idea and transmits to the listener in unequivocal manner. [Click to listen to Tallis.]

Works have been selected to cover a wide range and not to dwell on a single style. Rachmaninoff's Nunc Dimittis is a colouful piece with basses descending to notes that only Russian basses can vividly resonate. There's also Gretchaninov and Tchaikovsky from the same tradition. Neighbouring this from Finland, a short Evening hymn by Rautavaara displays a similar style, sonorous and mysterious - and quite beautiful.[Click to listen.]

These two records musically have little in common. The strength of each is in colourful programmes projected through excellent young voices whose choral technique and balance produce enjoyable singing of a wide range of music.


Copyright © Basil Ramsey, November 26th 1999


CD and purchase information:
St Mary Magdalen Oxford           Clare College Cambridge

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