Bainbridge, C Matthews, Oliver, Lutyens, Skempton, Cashian, Casken, etc

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COMPOSERS: Bainbridge,C Matthews,Cashian,Casken,etc,Lutyens,Oliver,Skempton
LABELS: USK
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: The Country of the Stars
WORKS: Choral works
PERFORMER: Ionian Singers/Timothy Salter
CATALOGUE NO: USK 1224 (distr. 020 8318 2031; www.uskrecordings.com)
‘Listen/and the empty sky/soon rings with overlapping song.’ Kevin Crossley-Holland’s lines, set by Philip Cashian in ‘Music for an Empty Sky’, provide an arresting opening to this valuable collection of recent British choral music. They also strike echoes in other texts: the ‘Church-bels beyond the starres heard’ of George Herbert’s ‘Prayer’, responsively set by John Casken as ‘The Land of Spices’; the world ‘outside the coded fringe of space’ described by Richard George Elliott in his text for Gabriel Jackson’s well-shaped ‘Lux mortuorum’; the ‘sovereign heaven’ of Boethius’s cosmology in Chaucer’s translation, lucidly set by Elisabeth Lutyens in ‘The Country of the Stars’. Composers’ approaches to texts vary considerably: Stephen Oliver shapes Thomas Kempis’s ‘O fons amoris’ into a coherent three-section motet; Douglas Young in his ‘Canticle’ bites off a rather denser chunk of Auden than he can chew; Howard Skempton dispatches ‘Two Poems’ by Edward Thomas in less time than Colin Matthews takes over three lines of Shakespeare in his non-carol ‘A Rose at Christmas’. Especially attractive are the imaginative textures of Timothy Salter’s ‘The White and the Walk of the Morning’, to poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Simon Bainbridge’s glowing setting of Rilke‘Herbsttag’. This challenging programme is tackled by the Ionian Singers with a slightly pallid colour which underplays its considerable stylistic variety, but with impressive accuracy and confidence. Anthony Burton

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