Holst: Hymn of Jesus; Delius: Sea Drift; Cynara
Holst’s The Hymn of Jesus is one of his handful of acknowledged masterpieces, combining plainchant melodies and characteristic irregular metres in a setting of an Apocryphal text in which Christ sings and dances with his disciples before the Crucifixion. The Hallé Choir is energetic in the dance and radiant in ecstatic affirmation, with a strong contribution from the Youth Choir’s semi-chorus. The Hallé plays with precise attacks and perfect blending, and Mark Elder directs with sure control of the episodic structure.
Sea Drift is classic Delius, a setting of Walt Whitman’s description of a seabird’s loss of its mate. Elder shows a Beecham-like mastery of tempo and flow, creating spaces in which woodwind soloists and the excellent leader Lyn Fletcher can project expressive solos. The choir is again on fine form. And Roderick Williams is an outstanding soloist, with well focused tone throughout his range and the clearest of diction – not operatically larger-than-life, like Bryn Terfel for Richard Hickox on Chandos, but telling the story with restrained compassion.
These are excellently balanced live recordings (with applause) made in the Hallé’s Manchester home, the Bridgewater Hall. A scarcely less atmospheric studio recording of Cynara, Delius’s setting of Ernest Dowson’s once popular poem of nostalgic regret, beautifully sung by Williams, completes this highly recommendable disc.