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Bluebird - Music of Contemplation

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Product details

  • Audio CD (9 Oct. 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Decca
  • ASIN: B000050AQA
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,303 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Song TitleArtist Time Price
Listen  1. Rutter: What Sweeter MusicEdward Higginbottom 4:09£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  2. Stanford: Eight Part-songs, Op.119 - The BluebirdEdward Higginbottom 3:22£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. Traditional: Te Lucis ante Terminum (after "Song Of The Birds")Edward Higginbottom 2:19£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. Handel: Crux Fidelis (after "Ombra ma fu"- Xerses)Edward Higginbottom 2:29£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. Gounod: Ave Maria: arr. from Bach's Prelude No.1 BWV 846 - Arr.E.HigginbottomEdward Higginbottom 2:52£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. Grieg: Ave Maris Stella (Vesper Hymn c.9th century)Edward Higginbottom 2:57£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  7. Finzi: Lo, the full, final sacrifice, Op.26 - AmenEdward Higginbottom 1:05£0.39  Buy MP3 
Listen  8. Gretchaninov: Liturgy of St.John Chrysostom, No.2, Op.29 - CreedEdward Higginbottom 4:30£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  9. Traditional: God Be In My HeadEdward Higginbottom 1:32£0.39  Buy MP3 
Listen10. Fauré: Lugebat David - Arr. E.Higginbottom after "Pavane", Op.50Edward Higginbottom 5:55£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen11. Rachmaninov: Vespers (All-Night Vigil), Op.37 - 5. "Nyne otpushchayeshi"Edward Higginbottom 3:34£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen12. Stanford: Beati quorum viaEdward Higginbottom 3:22£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen13. Tavener: Song For AtheneEdward Higginbottom 5:35£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen14. Rachmaninov: Vespers (All-Night Vigil), Op.37 - 3. "Blazhen muzh"Edward Higginbottom 6:05£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen15. Taverner: Mater ChristiEdward Higginbottom 6:01£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen16. Monteverdi: Ave Maris StellaEdward Higginbottom 4:28£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen17. Rossini: O Salutaris HostiaEdward Higginbottom 3:53£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen18. Messiaen: O sacrum convivium!Edward Higginbottom 4:30£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen19. Pärt: Seven Magnificat Antiphons - O WeisheitEdward Higginbottom 1:34£0.39  Buy MP3 
Listen20. Bainton: And I saw a new HeavenEdward Higginbottom 6:08£0.79  Buy MP3 

Product Description

Product Description

DEC 466870; DECCA - Inghilterra; Classica da camera Organo


The Choir of New College Oxford has been performing for more than 600 years. Bluebird features five centuries' worth of choral music, from Taverner to Tavener, under Edward Higginbottom, the choir's musical director since 1976. This is the choir's first recording for Decca and although its standard of performance doesn't quite match up to those made for Erato, such as the bestselling Agnus Dei, this is a fascinating and well-conceived collection of 20 sacred works. Composers including Monteverdi, Handel, Gounod, Grieg, Fauré, Rachmaninov, Rossini, Messiaen and Pärt are explored. But it is the English repertory which the choir most succeeds in bringing to life, notably John Rutter's heartwarming What Sweeter Music, Edgar Bainton's rousing And I saw a new Heaven, Charles Stanford's mesmerising The Blue Bird and the glorious "Amen" from Gerald Finzi's Lo, the full, final sacrifice. --Rebecca Agnew

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 April 2001
Format: Audio CD
After their chart-topping success of 'Agnus Dei' and 'Agnus Dei II', New College have not tried to make much change to a winning formula with this latest collection of favourites from the English Choral repetory. Sub-titled 'Music of Contemplation' to give the programme a spiritual, rather than overtly religious, flavour, it is actually only Stanford's 'Bluebird' which would definitely not be heard in evensong. Higginbottom, although leaning heavily towards the mass-market in his choice of sugar-coated classics such as Bach/Gounod 'Ave Maria' does offer a coherent package, while surprises such Gretchaninoff's sublime 'Creed' with a young soloist on top form, ensure its freshness and originality. The trebles produce their distinctive tone to great effect here, one gains the impression that they are really emotionally involved. The back-rows are also characteristically assured. One slight complaint would be that Decca's sound quality is not of their usual high standard on this disc - at times it sounds as if the choir is singing in a bathroom (not due I'm sure to the acoustics in Merton College, but rather to the studio work afterwards). Nevertheless this does not marr a fabulous achievement, which should rank high amongst the recordings of this 'compilation' type.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Hilary Musker on 11 Feb. 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
A beautiful album with so many lovely pieces of music. A peaceful hour listening to this. I greatly enjoyed it.
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By T. G. F. Garrett on 28 Aug. 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Appreciated by my wife who will put it on then disappear upstairs only to come back and put it on again !!!
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By Patricia on 10 Dec. 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
wonderful choir and singing
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Stunning 15 May 2002
By Gillian L. Rosheuvel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
When I first got this album, I listened to only the first three tracks, while I prayed in the morning and the evening. One night, I accidentally fell asleep with the CD still playing, and I awoke to hear Gabriel Faure's beautiful "Lugebat David". Soon after, I listened to the entire album and was blown away by its utter beauty. The voices are perfect, the arrangements luminous, and they create an ethereal mood. I still listen to this album when I pray, for it puts me in the best frame of mind for that exercise.
Among my favorites on the album are: "What Sweeter Music" (Rutter), "The Bluebird" (Stanford), "Song For Athene" (Tavener), "Nyne otpushehayeshi" (Rachmaninov), "O Weisheit" (Part), and "God Be In My Head" (Davies). But, the reason I gave this album five stars is it breathes as a whole: beyond my favorite tracks, every song is stellar. If you own no other choral music, you should own this album
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
One of the Most Beautiful CDs ever 27 Dec. 2001
By Bevy McM - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I am astounded at the beauty of this CD, especially the first piece, "What Sweeter Music." The entire CD is lovely. Let yourself be taken away to another world as you unwind into the harmonies. The Chorus is superb, and the selection of music is really unmatched. You will not be disappointed.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Glorious Hymns Well Sung! 26 Feb. 2006
By James Yowell Yelvington - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I was surprised to read the wide variation of reactions to this CD, which I read whilst re-hearing it. Talk about one man's meat being another man's poison!

Let me say at the outset, I am one who found the disk to be delicious meat, not poison. While I, too, was a bit fearful when I saw the number of re-arranged familiar works, I approached them with an open mind, prepared to enjoy them or not as the listening experience unfolded, with no odious comparisons nor particular expectations nor religious purposes in mind. I will speak then of my musical experience listening to the disk.

I enjoyed the music immensely, and was grateful for the provision of texts and translations (in lieu of any other notes about the pieces). I found the variety of cultures, styles, periods, and level of familiarity a very refreshing reminder of the countless ways in which composers of various times and places have approached Christian ideas (for no other religion is represented here).

Let me say a word or two about the individual pieces, then offer a very brief summary.

First, the Rutter hymn "What Sweeter Music" was familiar to me, but I delighted in its sheer loveliness, almost as if it were the first time! I had to play it several times before proceeding. We all owe John Rutter a great deal for his musical contribution to our times.

I was impressed with the beauty and imagination of Stanford's setting of Mary Coleridge's "Blue Bird." Not really a hymn, I suppose, it speaks of joy in nature, reminiscent in basic idea to "All Things Bright and Beautiful," though not musically similar.

The rendering of the Catalan folksong (brought to us originally by Pablo Casals) as a hymn with 7th century Ambrosian text was a welcome chance to re-hear that lovely music, and not as the Christmas carol "El Cant dels Ocells" ("The Song of the Birds"). Higginbottom's arrangement, with harp accompaniment, is very atmospheric and gorgeous.

The setting of Händel's "Ombra Mai Fu" (from his opera Xerxes) was a bit difficult to separate from its original context simply because of its immense popularity; still I managed to suppress those connotations, and found the new topic really not so different, after all. The "Crux Fidelis" text speaks of the holy cross as a "noble tree," while in Xerxes the aria renders thanks to a tree for its shade. The choral arrangement, sung in unison, with string accompaniment is tasteful and musical.

The Bach-Gounod "Ave Maria" is another extremely familiar hymn, but this one is not so much different from its Gounod setting. Higginbottom has simply added a choral accompaniment to the original vocal solo and used the harp to provide instrumental support. The tenor, Ben Hulett, sings very beautifully, as does the chorus behind him, and the balance is fine overall, though some might prefer the soloist to be more prominent in one or two spots.

I was glad to be reminded of Grieg's "Ave Maris Stella," which I had forgotten about, and of his expertise in writing for voice. His most popular works are undoubtedly the instrumental "Peer Gynt Suite" and the piano concerto. Here we get back to original versions again. I enjoyed this, though the intensity of the choral singing may be too much for some.

The "Amen" by Finzi shows a delightful interweaving of voices and some delicious harmonies within its short span (hardly more than 60 seconds).

Grechaninov's "Veruyu," or "Credo" from the important Russian Orthodox Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom brings to us the lovely, mystical chant of the all-male church choirs with their ultra-high tenors and ultra-low basses offering a huge richness of (unaccompanied) vocal sound. This is lovely and devout-sounding music, dramatically presented!

The utterly simple and ravishingly beautiful "God Be In My Head," by HW Davies, is probably alone worth the price of the CD! The choral singing here is absolutely first-rate.

The arrangement of Fauré's "Pavane" is one of the more problematic pieces, being again so very familiar to us all in the original flute and strings version. I was rather pleased with the choral arrangement, perhaps perversely, for I have grown a bit tired of hearing the original. The 15th century Latin words seem to me appropriate to the emotional character of Fauré's music, being very mournful indeed. (Fauré's title is simply the name of a very old Italian dance from Padua, so I don't know if he meant it to be sad.)

The 2 selections from Rachmaninov's setting of an "All Night Vigil" (tracks 11 and 14) present music from the Russian Orthodox church, as did Grechaninov's, and the musical style is quite similar. For a piano virtuoso, Rachmaninov astounds us with his fine choral writing. Listen for the extremely low bass notes at the end of track 11, but don't try them at home: they're really subterranean! Track 14 "Blessed Is the Man" is a remarkably fine hymn with lovely Alleluias at the end of each verse.

Stanford's "Beata Quorum Via" is another expert piece of choral writing, and it is quite beautiful as presented here, a capella, with lovely interweaving voices in varied textures.

The "Song for Athene," by contemporary English composer Sir John Tavener, is a lament for the death of a woman, with words from Shakespeare and the Russian Orthodox funeral service and music very reminiscent of the Russian music presented earlier, except that 20th century touches appear here and there in the form of dissonances which occur suddenly and then resolve quickly back into the predominant, often austere, harmony.

"Mater Christi" is by John Taverner (not Tavener!), a 16th century English composer of church music, much of which is fairly well known today. This is a fine, longish Marian hymn sung a capella in Latin.

Monteverdi provides another Marian hymn whose Latin text is very familiar and much used, being the "Ave Maris Stella." The chorus is supported by organ and chamber orchestra, and all perform well. Very fine music!

Rossini, of operatic fame, puts on his ecclesiastical mantle here to offer a hymn to words of St. Thomas Aquinas, "O Salutaris Hostia," which is appropriately devout in character and as dramatic as you might expect. It's also a lovely a capella hymn.

Messiaen's "O Sacrum Convivium" is, like Rossini's, a hymn which centers upon the Paschal victim as recalled in the holy communion, but this time in the exquisite and piquant harmonies characteristic of the 20th century French mystical composer.

Arvo Pärt is a contemporary Estonian composer (born 1935) of a mystical character akin to Messiaen's and Tavener's. "O Weisheit," a hymn to Divine Wisdom, is sung in German and has a chant-like quality.

"And I Saw a New Heaven," a liturgical anthem, is the best-known work of the 20th century English composer Edgar Bainton, who is less well known than most of the others here (two of whom--Davies and Stanford-- were his teachers). The English text, from the Book of Revelations, is highly mystical and prophetic, and the music, for chorus and organ, is absolutely glorious!

Though some have complained about the singing and the recording quality here, I don't agree with them overall. There are points where the intensity of the voices in the perhaps overly resonant environment may seem a bit harsh, but such points are relatively few, and I find the many moments of exquisite delight outweigh them by far. Thus I recommend this CD highly for the large amount of musical satisfaction it brings.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful 6 Dec. 2005
By kate - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I love this cd. I don't use it for serious listening - perhaps it is too sweet for that as the previous reviewer suggests, and perhaps there are better renditions. All I know is that this cd is wonderful to fall asleep or wake up to - and listening to it never fails to make me feel peaceful and happy. I recommend it.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Like Adding Sugar and Honey to Syrup 10 Oct. 2002
By S. Buzza - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This disc largely consists of sticky-sweet, bastardized choral arrangements done in a saccharine style. The pieces whose texts are set to familiar "Top 40" classical works are really quite tasteless- Lugebat David and Crux Fidelis being the worst of them.
The recording has been made with a manufactured sound in an unusually resonant space, which has allowed the producer to gloss over a startling number of sloppy entrances, a poor blend, occasional pitch problems, and a shrill soprano section.
Borrow the disc from your library and listen to the transcriptions for the novelty of it- but for more legitimate recordings of the Rutter, the Messaien, Part and Rachmaninov, you'd best look elsewhere.
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