Customer Review

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's evensong, Jim, but not as we know it, 4 Feb 2013
This review is from: I Was Glad - Sacred Music of Stanford and Parry (Audio CD)
This is a marvellous CD, hugely enjoyable to listen to and a very good advertisement for the two giants of British music in the generation before Elgar and Vaughan Williams.

Choral evensong was once - I forget where - compared to county cricket: it's a tradition which gamely continues the length and breadth of England, always maintaining a pretty decent standard, with occasional flashes of excellence, and it's completely ignored by all but a few diehard fans. It's a pity, really, and very little, if any, of the choral evensong repertoire has ever made it out of church and onto the concert platform. I can see why: many of the anthems are just too short to bother with as concert pieces, and often the musical material is just too thin, all ploddy organ accompaniments and heavy homophonic writing. Yet this CD, by the King's Consort, demonstrates how the music of two of the stalwarts of the English cathedral repertoire really does deserve a much wider audience. It's a generous hour and a bit of thrillingly passionate singing, accompanied not by a wheezy old windbox, but a lush orchestra replete with harp, tympani and the rest. It's great.

In terms of time the disc is dominated by Stanford's four big settings of the canticles for evensong, along with three works by Parry (yes, 'I was glad' is there, for you fans of royal weddings). Stanford may have been forgotten by pretty much everyone except church musicians, but these settings all demonstrate his considerable talent as an orchestrator, from the utterly charming Magnificat in G (with the brilliant, soaringly wonderful Carolyn Sampson as soprano soloist) to the Brahmsian splendour of the Nunc Dimittis in A. This isn't to say he was a genius, but he was a hugely talented composer and musician, and his music rewards repeated listening.

The project continues the King's Consort's commitment to historically informed performance, so it is interesting to hear the orchestra perform on older instruments (the liner notes document these in exhaustive detail), but to my mind this shouldn't distract you from what makes this disc tick, which is the sheet enjoyment and exuberance of the music-making. The King's Consort are in fine voice, all clearly enjoying letting rip on some real old chestnuts (most of them could probably perform this repertoire off by heart), and it's a pleasure to hear voices of the quality of Sampson and Wilson-Johnson on this sort of repertoire.

This isn't to say that this is a definitive recording of the music: I will just as happily listen to the Westminster Abbey recording of the B flat service on Durufle; Radcliffe; Ley; Stanford; Byrd: The Feast of Saint Peter The Apostle At Westminster Abbey, and the Stanford: Sacred Choral Music (Winchester Cathedral Choir; David Hill) (Hyperion: CDS44311/3) is a great disc, too. In the end, this throws new light on some well-trodden paths, and it does it just grandly. Well done, the King's Consort.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 Feb 2013 08:52:22 GMT
R. J. Tayler says:
Thankyou for the review. I shall certainly be ordering the disc. If I may differ politely on one point: I used to think that Stanford (whose music I love - have you tried his splendid symphonies or concertos?) was a very fine composer. Then I encountered his Requiem; and thereafter have been certain that he was a genius. But then surely the composer of "The Blue Bird" was a genius!

Posted on 7 Feb 2013 14:20:26 GMT
Dave says:
"often the musical material is just too thin, all ploddy organ accompaniments and heavy homophonic writing" - might I suggest that you start with Howells Gloucester, St Pauls or Coll Reg services! The Harris double choir anthems, Faire is the Heaven and Bring us O Lord are pretty damned fine too. I would agree that there is much that doesn't work in a concert setting but in a large resonant church at sunset, is simply magical.
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