Top critical review
DISAPPOINTING ST PAUL.S CAROL ALBUM
25 November 2018
After reading the positive reviews posted here, I myself have found the disc disappointing and left wondering why many others here have apparently found it so appealing.
To explain my own views, there are various factors.
Firstly, the actual quality of the sound of the St Paul's choir on this disc I find is merely efficient; -everything is certainly in it's place- but is ultimately unexceptional. There was a time a few years back when this choir was so well-renowned for its thrillingly bright and mature sound. On this disc, the quality of the boys' voices in particular sounds light and thin, and ultimately lacking any real character in comparison. I wondered if the choir's seemingly lacklustre tone might be due to the time in the choir's year of the actual recording -but then on reading the details inside the back cover of the booklet, the recital was actually recorded just before the choir departed for the summer break, and so when many of the departing boys' voices in particular would surely have been at their maturest.
Although there are welcome inclusions on the disc of such carols as 'Gaudete', Philip Stopford's affecting setting of 'Lully, Lulla, Lullay' etc. I find there are finer renditions on other similar carol discs. The ubiquitous familiar arrangements and Willcocks' descants etc. to my ears just fail to actually thrill. It somehow all sounds merely 'routine.'
Regarding the actual presentation of this disc, there are no texts included in the booklet but merely very brief notes regarding the various items.
The booklet has a photograph of the choir within St Paul's Cathedral, and another of its decorated saucer-domes.
The booklet cover depicts the choristers revelling in falling snow outside of Wren's famous dome, and Andrew Carwood -the choir's Director- says in his booklet introduction that "we hope this disc will give you a glimpse of Christmas at St Paul's." Both are a little ingenuous, as the small-print inside the booklet's back cover states that the cd was not actually recorded in St Paul's Cathedral at all, but in a different church altogether -that of St Giles Cripplegate. Those who are familiar with the famous acoustic of Wren's massive building -or of the many recordings actually made within the cathedral- will immediately hear the difference -as also that it is not the sound of the equally famous organ accompanying.
Although the St Paul's cavernous acoustic can be difficult to both work and record in, nevertheless there have over many years been successful recordings made in the cathedral itself. Also, the BBC with their temporary set-ups so often achieve both satisfying and realistic reproduction of both the St Paul's choir and organ in their radio broadcasts of Evensong etc.
Sadly -to my ears- a disappointing disc.