5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Excellent choral singing but lacking orchestral brilliance,
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This review is from: Elgar - Sacred Choral Works (Audio CD)
This recording of Elgar choral pieces by the excellent choir of St. John's College, Cambridge is everything one would expect and hope for in terms of performance of the pieces Elgar wrote specifically for unaccompanied choir, or for choir and organ alone. The only drawback with this collection comes in the choice to include items which Elgar wrote with orchestral accompaniment or for which he subsequently wrote orchestral versions. Because Elgar was such a great orchestrator and generally thought in orchestral terms, there is always something missing from performances that use just choir and organ versions. This is obviously true in the items taken from the great choral materpieces 'The Apostles' and 'The Light of Life' but it is most noticeable towards the end of the Benedictus Op. 34. In the orchestral version Elgar achieves a stunning effect with loud drum beats, which here are merely damp squibs when they are played as relatively muted pedal notes on the organ. Other performers have achieved a much better effect even in organ-only versions, but there is nothing to match the sheer drama of the drum strokes in the orchestral version such as in Richard Hickox' superb performance of the Te Deum and Benedictus with the London Symphony Chorus and the Northern Sinfonia on EMI.
There are, of course, some gains in the vocal clarity which is provided by a choir and organ-only performance and in this respect St. John's Choir is exemplary. Allan Clayton is the particularly fine soloist in 'Seek Him that maketh the seven stars' and this extract from 'The Light of Life' is extremely well sung.