St Johns commence their new recording deal with Chandos with a selection of pieces that show off the choir's strengths to the maximum. Among many recordings available of the Il salmo Miserere mei Deus by Allegri, this must rank among one of the purest performances ever made. I was mesmorised by the waves of sound and seemingly effortless top C's produced one after another. ( I sang this several times as a chorister way back when, and it is a tiring piece to sing!) This recording covers a wide range of musical styles from the 1500's through to living composers such as James MacMillan, yet the choir takes all within it's stride with seamless skill. Arvo Part's "Bogorodiste Djevo" is taken at a jaunty pace enabling the crystal clear diction particularly of the trebles to shine through, while the following Rachmaninoff is a mass of beautifully sung intertwined harmonies given particular presence by the Gentlemen of the choir.Palestrina's "Exultate Deo" shows the choir at it's best with each part balancing beautifully to give a vibrant flowing performance. Mac Millan's "A New Song" provides a moment of contemporary beauty and poise with precise rhythmic execution particularly from the trebles. What could be a routine sing through of the much performed Franck Panis Angelicus is a superb, focused performance enhanced by the tonal precision of Graham Walker's cello. For me the CD then takes on a new life with simply breathtaking performances of Vaughan Williams "O Taste and See" and Faure "Cantique de Jean Racine. The smooth clarity in both is sheer pleasure to the soul.Helen Scarborough brings a warmth to Rutter's "O lord thou has searched me out", those who simply know of John Rutter through jolly Christmas carol arrangements would do well to experience another side of one of Britain's finest living composers.The title track sees the choir sign off with a full blown lesson in top quality choral performance, marrying the great St John's organ with the might of the choir at full throttle: Magnificent! It is hard to find fault with the choir's performances, Andrew Nethsinga draws the very best from the choir's considerable collective and individual talents. If I have a slight gripe, it is that the recording seems to be a little distant at times, and lacks the immediacy and crispness it should perhaps have. This is a technical observation rather than a criticism of the choir.Perhaps I need a new stereo, I will go away and listen to it again on different equipment!
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