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Vaughan Williams: Choral Music (Including Vision Of Aeroplanes/ Mass In G Minor) CD
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Ralph Vaughan Williams's sublime Mass in G minor reveals the composer's absorbing interest in using the modal harmonic language and contrapuntal textures of the English late Renaissance to achieve a huge emotional and dynamic range. Undoubtedly the most technically demanding work on this disc is A Vision of Aeroplanes, a virtuosic motet for mixed chorus and organ. Several neglected works also feature here, including The Voice out of the Whirlwind, an anthem for mixed chorus and orchestra or organ, and Valiant-for-truth, one of several works based on Bunyan's Christian allegory The Pilgrim's Progress.
''This performance, lovingly moulded and well balanced in the play of solo voices and full choir, is in the best tradition.'' --Gramophone
''Compliments to the Naxos sound team for achieving clarity within a faithful representation of the St John's college acoustic…what impresses about this performance is the exceptional sense of shape, both in overview and in tiny details…This comes with a strong recommendation.'' --BBC Music Magazine
''There's no doubt [Vaughan Williams] would have doffed his boater to the latest recording…from Clare College….the sweeping energy and rich detail of Tim, Brown's interpretation draw out the best from his young singers, in matters musical and mystical.'' --Classic FM Magazine
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The Mass in G minor is RVW's brilliant take on the music of the late English Renaissance. But the Mass is much more than a pastiche of Tallis and Byrd since RVW makes things interesting by mixing up the textures (there are sections solo voices, solo quartets, single and double choir) and creates a deeply moving work that will appeal to listeners who are fond of RVW's pastoral style. While I miss hearing trebles in the music's top line (pick up the recording by the Saint Thomas Choir on Koch for this), this is a very beautiful performance.
The rarities are real treasures. The Voice out of the Whirlwind, an anthem adapted from the "Galliard of the Sons of the Morning" from Job, is a big-boned workout for choir with an especially muscular organ part that is played brilliantly by Ashok Gupta. Perhaps best of all is A Vision of Aeroplanes, a strikingly cinematic take on the tale of Ezekiel and the wheel with another knuckle and foot-blistering organ part.
The performances are all excellent. Timothy Brown is one of the great choral conductors of the English repertoire and he gets responsive and technically polished performances from this fine choir. Kudos to the two organists also, Mr. Gupta is superb throughout and James McVinnie all but steals the show in the Vision of Aeroplanes.
However, the recording engineer has ruined it all with the use of way too much reverb. By doing so, the harmonies become slightly obscured, and the texts become completely lost. What a shame! Still, if you're looking for this repertoire, it is unlikely you'll find it elsewhere. The CD is still worth the purchase for that reason alone.