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Agnus Dei: Music of Inner Harmony

61 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 18, 1997
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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Beyond this recording's new age packaging and title is a splendid sampling of some of the world's finest choral music, sung by one of the world's outstanding choirs. This "anthology of sacred choral music" spans 400 years and includes such masterpieces as Allegri's Miserere, Bach's "Jesu, joy of man's desiring," and Barber's exquisite Agnus Dei, which is the composer's choral setting of his famous Adagio for Strings. Along the way we also hear Mozart's sublime "Ave verum corpus," Elgar's "Lux aeterna," and the Kyrie from Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli. There has been a choir at England's New College, Oxford, since the year 1379, and this impressive line of experience shows in the intelligent, unfaltering, and finely polished performances by today's ensemble of 16 boys and 12 adults. --David Vernier

1. Agnus Dei, op.11 - Barber
2. Cantique de Jean Racine, op.11 - Faure
3. Kyrie - Palestrina
4. Ave Verum Corpus K 618 - Mozart
5. Jesus bleibet meine Freude - Bach
6. Ave Maria, op.37 No.6 - Choir Of New College Oxford
7. Lux Aeterna - Choir Of New College Oxford
8. Totus Tuus - Choir Of New College Oxford
9. Hear my prayer - Mendelssohn
10. The Lamb - Tavener
11. In paradisum - Faure
12. Miserere mei, Deus - Choir Of New College Oxford

Product Details

  • Performer: Oxford Choir of New College
  • Conductor: Edward Higginbotham
  • Composer: Fauré, Palestrina, Mozart, Bach, Rachmaninov, et al.
  • Audio CD (February 18, 1997)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Erato Disques
  • ASIN: B000005E4J
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,173 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

110 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Lee on January 19, 1998
Format: Audio CD
Some of it's secular, much of it's sacred, but Erato's recording, spanning over 300 years of some of the most harmonious and beautiful pieces of vocal music ever written, has something for almost everyone who appreciates classical music.
Not only are the performances well-performed, but they also add new interpretations to some well-known pieces. I can safely say that out of more than a dozen or so recordings, this is the most anguished singing I've heard in Barber's Agnus Dei. The Choir of New College sings clearly. The voices pierce in the Agnus Dei, their articulate the liturgy of Miserere mei pleasingly, but they also add some warmth into pieces like Lux Aeterna and Mendelssohn's Hear My Prayer.
The tracks are very diverse here, and the order of the pieces was apparently carefully chosen. Barber's famous (and "unkillable") Agnus Dei begins. It's a piece that has been evocative of sorrow for years (the string arrangement was played for services for such dignitaries as FDR and JFK). The piercing notes of htE Agnus Dei then give way to Faure's magnificent Cantique, famed (like most of his other works) for its gentle feel. Palestrina's Kyrie follows, and then we hear Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus. Almost everyone is familiar with Bach's Jesus bleibet meine Freude, better known as Jesus, Son of Man's Desiring, and the popular wedding music sets quite a stage here. There are lesser-known pieces like Elgar's Lux Aeterna, but we also hear Mendelssohn's Hear My Prayer. Originally set in German, it is sung here in English. With Tavener's Lamb, it creates a familiar setting. The final two pieces, Faure's In paradisum, perhaps his most famous movement, and Allegri's Miserere (the only work of his to survive the modern repertoire), contrast each other.
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57 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Roger Lakins on January 2, 2001
Format: Audio CD
This is one of those albums that is conceived as a program carefully calculated to give the listener Goosebumps and evoke a tear from the eye. When lesser musicians try to pull such a stunt, the effect is maddening. You feel as though you are being emotionally manipulated, and you resent it. When the efforts of first class musicians such as Higginbottom and the Choir of New College, Oxford, attempt such a feat, it is an emotional, musical, and religious experience. The majority of the repertoire heard on this disc is quite familiar to most listeners in one form or another, but you will rarely hear a choir of such clean, precise and yet passionate sound take on these pieces.
The first selection on the disc is Samuel Barber's own transcription of his "Adagio for Strings" to the Mass text, "Agnus Dei." This composition is difficult for string players to keep in tune, so we can imagine how difficult it is for a choir to sustain the pitch a cappella! The New College performance is a "must hear." Words fail to adequately convey the beauty, balance, and intense music making captured on this disc. The effect is hypnotic. The conductor had the good sense and taste to offer a program with enough variety that you are given an emotional rest on occasion, but the basic meditative atmosphere is sustained throughout the program. The Elgar transcription of "Lux Aeterna" arranged by John Cameron is particularly worth treasuring. It shares much of the ethos of the Barber work and is rarely heard in this form.
The Bach, Mozart, Mendelssohn and Faure which round out the work are very familiar favorites and given graceful, splendid performances. They are so good, in fact, that it would make the album a great gift idea for churches to give amateur choir members as a thank you and inspiration for improvement.
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Neslund (justus@flash.net) on September 24, 1998
Format: Audio CD
Edward Higgenbottom is no shrinking violet! Indeed, with the production of Agnus Dei, Agnus Dei II and Nativitas, he has brought the wonderful choir of men and boys called The Choir of New College, Oxford (England) to the forefront of attention. Despite efforts to destroy this form of tradition as "elitist," Dr. Higgenbottom has proved the point: an excellent choir of men and boys must be cherished, and in this particular case, praised.
One wonders, when listening to this album, whether the composers of the works represented ever heard their "musical children" performed with such polish, such musicianship, such love. My favorite selection, a difficult decision to be sure, is the Mendelssohn "Hear My Prayer," sung by treble soloist Thomas Herford with rare beauty of voice and an investment of appropriate emotion that separates his singing from that of contemporary boy sopranos.
My only quibble is with the subtitle: "music of inner harmony," which sounds a bit New Age, which is totally unnecessary, it seems to me, and which may even be misleading to some. The music is the thing here.
I join other reviewers in highly recommending this CD, and as said previously, just turn it on, and let it play!
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Mark Marshall on December 30, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Agnus Dei is the most incredible choral CD I have yet heard. It is other worldly and unspeakably beautiful.

As soon as you hear the first piece, Barber's "Agnus Dei", you will know this CD is a world apart. The atmosphere is so ethereal without overproduction (although the production is clearly excellent). Individual voices are very clear while perfectly fitting together. And the 12 pieces, while from different ages and composers, are also made to fit together very well, making the CD almost seamless.

I'm at a loss to describe it further. Such music as this makes words inadequate. This is a wonderful CD to either listen to carefully, or to use as background or go-to-sleep music.

I can't recommend Agnus Dei strongly enough, even for those who aren't (yet) fans of English choral music.
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