on 24 January 2008
This is surely the finest recording of Howells' beautiful Requiem, which was originally written for Kings' College Cambridge, and not in memory of his son, Michael, as previously thought (Michael's memorial is that other great Howells work, "Hymnus Paridisi"). Like Brahms, Howells exchanged the text of the traditional Latin "Missa Defunctis" for a sequence of Psalms and other sacred texts, including the "Salvator Mundi" in English, the 23rd psalm, and the Introit from the Requiem Mass, amongst others.
Alongside the Requiem features the beautiful St Paul's Service, two glorious organ pieces (the pedal reeds make the speakers shake!), and the motet "Take him, earth, for cherishing" - one of the most moving and perfect of choral motets to have been written in the 20th century.
The recording is surely unsurpassed by the ever-excellent choir of St John's College, Cambridge (a choir which Howells directed during the war), and is under the skilled and assured baton of the great Christopher Robinson. Both the performance and the sound quality are superb, and the acoustics are perfect for the repertoire. Soloists also make a brief appearance in the Requiem are really quite something, and the tone of the trebles in the choir is soft and lilting whilst maintaining clarity and purity of tone - something which makes St John's stand out from other Cambridge Colleges.
A truly superb recording from the Naxos label once again, which enjoys pride of place amongst my Howells discs.
on 10 April 2002
This recording is absolutely sublime - a must for anybody even remotely interested in English choral music. I bought it purely for the track "like as the hart," which has long been my favourite anthem, and I was not disappointed by the St. John's performance of it. However, the highlight of this CD for me is the singing of psalm 121; I have never heard it sung like this before. It is the most awe-inspiring piece and the voice of the baritone singing it is majestic. It would be worth ten times the price to hear this. I can honestly recommend this to you as an amazing buy.
on 28 October 1999
St John's choir is renowned amongst the cognoscenti as the better of Cambridge University's two choirs (although both are now faced with stiff competition in the shape of the increasingly competent St John's Singers). I believe this is the first of the choir's releases to be issued on the budget Naxos label, and a very welcome decision this is - this music, by a comparatively neglected English composer, deserves a very wide circulation. This disc opens with a warm and flowing rendition of the St Paul's Canticles, redolent of a fine Stilton; at once tangy and richly complex. It is difficult to choose highlights from among the 76 minutes of vibrancy and passion, but the final "Take him, Earth, for cherishing" - which surely is to John F. Kennedy what Tavener's "Song for Athene" is to the late Princess of Wales - is utterly bewitching, and the organ soli (Paean for Organ and Rhapsody No. 3, played with youthful verve by Farrington) is a dynamic roller-coaster ride. In summary, this is a thoroughly enjoyable incursion into the mass market by the hitherto cloistered and rarified voices of St John's.
on 13 November 1999
Highly recommended CD in choice of music and in general execution: a wonderful bargain at only £4.99. May I correct a surprising error in the liner-notes. Famously, and for very many years, Howells was closely connected with London's Royal College of Music, not the Royal Academy, as stated more than once in the notes. This CD will no doubt achieve world-wide sales:it seems to me to be of some importance to be factually accurate concerning such a leading English composer. Enjoy the music! - at any price, a must-have CD.
on 14 January 2008
Much to my loss, I have come (relatively) late to English Choral music; it really is wonderful. Listen to the "glory be" after the magnificat and nunc dimittis, its ecstatic soaring music, as religious music should be. The music reminds me of the final trio in Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss. And yet the music could not be more different. Much of this music is very gentle and contemplative. A "must" for those interested in modern English choral music.
on 14 May 2003
I felt that this performance, whilst being highly accurate, lacked the subtle emotional quality and elasticity of the recording by the Vasari singers. It is still a very decent recording, but if you are looking for just the requiem, Vasari is the one to go for.