Another good one from St. Paul's!
Mark Swinton | 06/03/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Here's another satisfying member of the "English Anthem" series, with a good blend of old favourites and more recent works, all of it making for quite an ambitious and challenging programme.As with previous and subsequent volumes in the series, John Scott takes the opportunity to record items written specially for the St. Paul's Choir. The opening work "Let the people praise Thee, O God" is one such item, commissioned from William Mathias for the Wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981. Sadly, this recording was made nearly a year after Mathias' death, and one cannot help but feel that the choir is bidding farewell to him in this performance, although the opulence and joy in the music are brilliantly captured.Of especial note is the representation, side by side, of York Minster's celebrated masters of music, Edward Bairstow and Francis Jackson, the latter of whom studied with the former. The so-called "English Renaissance" is further embodied in Herbert Howells' "Hymn to St. Cecilia" and the double choir anthem "Bring us, O Lord" by William Harris (the magic of his similar work, "Faire is the Heaven," sadly does not come through as much in this one). More recent and very difficult offerings come in the form of "Let us invoke Christ" (commissioned from Francis Grier of Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford; this is very indicative of his interest in Eastern music) and Jonathan Harvey's "I Love the Lord," which is frankly not as well sung here as on it's original recording by Winchester Cathedral Choir. (If there's only one thing that annoys about St. Paul's Cathedral Choir, it's that the tenors and basses have a tendency to use heavy vibrato, which can absolutely ruin works like this.)Finally, the old favourites and staples of choirs up and down the country: Stanford's choral fanfare "Coelos ascendit hodie"; the beautiful and versatile "Teach me, O Lord" by Thomas Attwood (which I have sung frequently at Selby Abbey); and Charles Wood's magnificent "O Thou, the central orb" all bring a wonderful dimension to the programme. For the conclusion, Scott and his forces take on "Hear my words, ye people," C. H. H. Parry's mammoth setting of prophetical verses from the Bible. Practically a miniature cantata, it ends with the much-loved hymn "O Praise ye the Lord" - in its original form, with a joyful alternative harmonisation of the tune and a soaring, powerful "Amen." This is a truly heroic ending to a compelling performance.St. Paul's Choir have richly earned their reputation for exploring the English Church Repertoire to its furthest limits. This disc is the proof of it. Mostly excellent!"