Search - Samuel Barber, Gabriel Faure, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina :: Agnus Dei: Music of Inner Harmony: The Choir of New College Oxford

Agnus Dei: Music of Inner Harmony: The Choir of New College Oxford
Samuel Barber, Gabriel Faure, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Agnus Dei: Music of Inner Harmony: The Choir of New College Oxford
Genre: Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #1

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 ...  more »

      
   
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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

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CD Reviews

Exceptional collection
Jeff Lee | 01/20/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)

"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. What is most notable about this collection is the fact that it skillfully weaves in and out of not only musical periods but also general emotion. Some recordings have a tendency to simply proceed from pre-Baroque to 20th Century Contemporary in order of time. This tends to create separate "islands", almost- you will get one feeling for all of the works in one period but a different one for the next. There's no unifying, overall feel. In Agnus Dei, however, the pieces are ordered so that even though we weave in and out of the various musical periods and styles, there is still a unifying feel. The recording literally guides us step by step through. Barber's "anguished" Agnus Dei is followed by the tranquil Cantique. We go reverse in time, from Mozart to Bach. From Tracks 4 to 7, it's all gentle and serene stuff: there's the Bach wedding tune, Rachmaninov's praise of Maria, and Elgar's setting of a blessing of light. Mendelssohn's Hear My Prayer and Tavener's Lamb are all gentle and unimposing pieces. But the piece that ends Agnus Dei: Allegri's Miserere, considered too otherworldly by the papal administration for ordinary mortals to hear, has been interpreted as a harsher and certainly more distant work. So then what better to precede it than Faure's heavy dose of sugar, his (in his very own words) "lullaby of death"? In paradisum is justly famous for its beautiful scene of heaven, and it forms a perfect neighbor to the Miserere. In all, this is an exceptional collection. Certainly it's something the beginner can use as a stepping stone into vocal music, but also something anyone can enjoy. One might not like the Gorecki Totus Tuus, or one may not like the Agnus Dei, or the Cantique. Yet there is surely something in here that merits listening over and over again, and I'm sure the listener will find one for his or her taste. But overall, just putting the CD into the player and pressing play, ignoring the "skip" or "select track" buttons, Agnus Dei will send the listener through three centuries worth of vocal music, step by step. END"
Choral music lives!!
Douglas Neslund (justus@flash.net) | Los Angeles, California | 09/24/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)

"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!"
Contemplative harmonies
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 09/01/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Choral collections abound but few have a sense of unity, the general preferences by the consumers so often is a 'sampler' disc of beautiful but unrelated music. AGNUS DEI is practically a formal concert by the Choir of New College, Oxford directed by Edward Higginbottom - a choral group comprised of all males, the treble voices being sung by boys and the tenor and bass lines sung by men. The quality of sound is superb and ethereal as only such choirs can sound. The variety varies from Palestrina , Bach and Mozart through Faure and Rachmaninov to Samuel Barber and John Taverner and even Gorecki. The accompaniment when indicated is the elegant organ of the New College Chapel. For those who yearn for moments of peace and inspiration, this is a first rate, high quality recording."