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English Choral Music

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 20, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Rejoice in the Lamb, op. 30 - Te Deum en ut majeur - Missa Brevis en ré, op. 63... / Chœur du Collège St. John, Cambridge, dir. Christopher Robinson

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Naxos's previous release of the Choir of St John's College, Cambridge, performing works by Herbert Howells was widely recognized as an outstanding bargain, and rightly so. This latest offering from the same choir is no less impressive. The singing is alert, committed, rhythmically incisive, characterful (most of all in that minor masterpiece, Rejoice in the Lamb), with excellent blend and unanimity, clear and colorful vowels (if occasionally a shade exaggerated), and tremendous reserves of power for dramatic moments--all blessed with an ideal acoustic and superb support from the (assumed) organist Iain Farrington. The many solo parts are for the most part well covered--especially enjoyable is Benedict Giles considering his cat, Jeffrey, in Rejoice in the Lamb. Minor quibbles: Perhaps there is marginally less assurance in the a cappella works, such as A Hymn to the Virgin, and some of the rhythmic articulation in the Missa Brevis is a touch affected. The menu includes such slightly less-well-known works as the Festival Te Deum and the intriguing men-and-angels Antiphon of 1956. All in all, an impressive reminder that Britten was as committed as Howells to the English church music tradition--a fitting vessel for his passionate belief that his art should be "useful." --Andrew Green
  • Sample this album Artist - Artist (Sample)
1
30
3:50
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2
30
2:12
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3
30
0:57
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4
30
1:56
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5
30
2:26
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6
30
1:01
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7
30
2:31
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8
30
1:12
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9
30
7:30
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10
30
2:40
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11
30
5:09
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12
30
3:08
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13
30
6:05
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14
30
1:29
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15
30
2:51
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16
30
1:13
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17
30
1:31
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18
30
2:09
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19
30
5:32
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20
30
2:25
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21
30
5:34
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22
30
10:18
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 20, 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • Run Time: 74 minutes
  • ASIN: B00004SSKS
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,725 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Alejandra Vernon HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 28, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Benjamin Britten adds to the tradition of English choral music with his inventive genius in these lovely pieces, sung so beautifully by the Choir of St. John's College in Cambridge, which consists of 16 choristers and 14 choral students, led since 1991 by Christopher Robinson, and with Iain Farrington on organ.
The first work, "Rejoice the Lamb" was commissioned in 1943, and uses the 18th century poems of Christopher Smart, who was considered insane in his lifetime. The words have a childlike wonder to them, and praise God's creation in everything from flowers to a mouse, who is "a creature of great personal valour"; my favorite is "I will consider my Cat Jeoffrey", and both text and music in this composition are enchanting.
"Te Deum", from 1934, was according to the liner notes the first of Britten's works to be published. "Jubilate Deo" is a short piece from 1961, and "Antiphon" (1956), is one of my favorites, a conversation between men and angels. "Hymn to the Virgin" was composed in 1930, when Britten was only seventeen. "Festival Te Deum" ( 1944) is another terrific selection, melodic and powerful.
"Missa Brevis" (1959), has some outstanding vocal work, and perhaps among all these pieces, shows Britten's creativity at its best, and would be my choice if I could only pick one work from this CD. It is followed by "Hymn to St. Peter" (1955), and "A Hymn of Saint Columba" (1962), and Britten's only piece for organ solo, "Prelude and Fugue on a theme of Vittoria" (1946).
Fitting for Britten, who was born on St. Cecilia's day, the final piece is "Hymn to St. Cecilia". It was written during the early 40s, using the sad, reflective words of W.H.
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This is worth paying full price for; it is spirited singing and idiomatic. It is harder to obtain the Howells Requiem and the piece he wrote after President Kennedy's assassination but they are equally beautiful. Naxos have a winner in this choir and they have the entire Englsh choral repertoire ahead of them - hopefully. It is one of those CDs which you keep off the shelf for constant replaying.
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If you like choral music from the 20th century, you will probably like this. Of course, the sound is very English, as little boys sing the soprano line. It's a different sound than you would get from, for instance, an American choir composed of men and women. The music is very well done I'm giving it 4 stars instead of 5 because there are places in the Te Deum in C where the choir sounds slightly out of tune, a little sharp. I'm disappointed by this, as I bought the album specifically because I love the Te Deum in C; it's been running through my head on a continual loop for the last year. I sang this piece once, about 20 years ago and it was an unparalleled experience. It's a glorious piece of music.
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I was fortunate enough to hear this performed at Trinity Episcopal church in NYC on Easter, years ago. It is a setting of a wonderful poem by Christopher Swift. I immediately got a copy of a book of Swift's poetry, but this was my first opportunity to get a copy of the music. I was delighted.
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