BASIL RAMSEY listens to choirs from both cities
Two small groups of choral singers combine for the first
recording: Voces Sacrae, a nine-voice professional ensemble based in London,
and the eight-voice choir of St Mary Magdalen, Oxford. The tonal quality is excellent
and the seventeen singers coalesce to good effect.
The programme links with the chapel repertory at St Mary Magdalen, ranging
from Byrd, Phillips [click to listen] and Schütz,
to Matthias, Rutter and W.S.Lloyd Webber. The last-named, whose reputation
is partially under the shadow of his son Andrew, regularly wrote church
music, some of it including this late setting of the Mass with a solid foundation
of respectability and no diversions from the beaten path. Even so, neat
touches do suddenly occur, may be in harmonic 'lifts', unusual texture,
or the delayed organ entry in the Gloria adding unexpected drama.
A fair representation of the 20th century is found in the programme:
not anything too adventurous. On the whole, listeners to sacred choral music
are not expecting their ears to be pulled out of shape. But the popular
choral composers of today - John Rutter and Bob Chilcott amongst them -
are displayed here with pieces that have much subtlety in shaping both musical
language and texture. Chilcott's setting of the well-known words God
so loved the world is far removed from Stainer. Rutter in yet another
carol uses 15th century words by John Audelay for a most graceful tune [click to listen] surrounded with suitable ornamentation.
Copyright © Basil Ramsey, November
CD and purchase information:
St Mary Magdalen Oxford Clare College Cambridge
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