The two works for baritone, chorus and orchestra on this recording deserve to be much better known. Ronald Corp's "And All the Trumpets Sounded" (1989) is a cantata on the theme of war which the composer intended to serve as a companion piece to Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem, and is actually worthy to sit in such exalted company. Indeed, it is a piece very much in the English choral tradition. Like Britten's War Requiem, it takes movements from the traditional requiem mass and intersperses them with settings of war poetry - in this case by Owen, Brooke, Sorley, Edward Thomas and Whitman, all of whom, apart from the last-named, lost their lives in war. There are, however, other influences, too - for example, a clear echo of Orff's Carmina Burana in the opening Dies Irae which (as in Orff) returns to close the piece. There are some deeply-felt and heart-rending movements lamenting the futility and waste of war, not least the setting of Whitman's "Vigil Strange" which forms the centrepiece of the work, and was actually the first movement to be composed. Elsewhere dramatic use is made of trumpets and drums to emphasise the martial and mechanistic side of war, its cruelty and inevitability. At one point, just before the close, there is an aleatoric (or free-rhythm) passage for the chorus (a technique familiar to adherents of Alan Hovhaness, perhaps) which rises to a terrifying crescendo before ushering in the opening Dies Irae music to end the piece. Corp's beloved New London Children's Choir is given a role in the Pie Jesu. I heard this work live at Corp's sixtieth birthday concert at the Royal Festival Hall, and can verify that it comes across very well on this Dutton disc.
The companion work on this CD, Michael Hurd's "The Shepherd's Calendar" (1975), described as a choral symphony, is scored for similar forces to the Corp (minus the children's choir), and is a four-movement setting of lines by the Northamptonshire poet John Clare from the poem of the title, although actually the third movement, "O love is so deceiving", is a separate poem unrelated to the Shepherd's Calendar. The other movements focus on the seasons - winter, spring and autumn respectively, and the texts generally reflect the poet's regret at the loss of the rural idyll of his childhood, a mood which is fully reflected in Hurd's settings. Hurd is not really a one-style composer since he wrote music to commission which had to fit the occasion, but here he is somewhat akin to the Gerald Finzi of the Requiem da Camera or the Intimations of Immortality - not necessarily stylistically (although he does move in the traditional "English" sound-world), but certainly in feeling.
On this CD we have two real discoveries which no lover of the English choral tradition can afford to ignore. All the forces are splendid throughout - Mark Stone (baritone in the Corp), Roderick Williams (Baritone in the Hurd), the London Chorus and New London Children's Choir, and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ronald Corp. The texts, unfortunately, are not included with the liner notes (which are otherwise ample), but can be downloaded from the Dutton Vocalion website.