All Shall Be Well

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: etc,Panufnik; Holst; Rachmaninov; Tavener; Gorecki; Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: All Shall Be Well
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Richard May (cello); Exultate Singers/David Ogden
CATALOGUE NO: 8572760

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Blend, unanimity, dynamics: this CD is gratifyingly strong on the eternal verities of good choral singing. You’ll hear them all done excellently in Holst’s eight-part setting of the Nunc dimittis, where the phrasing unravels with the ease of natural conversation, diction clear but unaffected. There’s a first, significant swell of volume at ‘Quod parasti’, building in a pleasingly unbroken paragraph through to the antiphonally resonating ‘Amen’ at the conclusion. The visceral shaft of glinting, vibrato-light soprano tone at ‘Lumen ad revelationem gentium’ is specially thrilling.

The same ability to see a work whole, and mark its structural progress with telling interpretive signposts, characterises conductor David Ogden’s shaping of Vaughan Williams’s unaccompanied motet Valiant for Truth. It’s a text-heavy five minutes which can easily encourage a blinkered, nose-in-score plough-through. Here, though, it’s illuminated with bright, intelligent verbal point-making, and a heart-lightening spot of instrumental mimesis when the trumpets sound for Valiant ‘on the other side’.

Tavener’s ritualistic Svyati (Richard May is the eloquent cello soloist) fits the choir’s fresh, pro-active approach less comfortably, but it’s almost impossible to stop this piece sagging, especially in a CD recording where there is no visual element. Overall, this imaginatively programmed disc marks the Exultate Singers out as a choir to be reckoned with. Two of the sung texts are missing in Naxos’s booklet, an odd omission.

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Terry Blain