Barber, Tippett, Bainton & East

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bainton & East,Barber,Tippett
LABELS: Wordsworth Singers
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: New Horizons
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Wordsworth Singers/Michael Hancock; Charles Harrison (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: WS 001 (distr. 01228 576337)
The Dunedin Consort is an Edinburgh-based group of (on this debut disc) 12 young professional singers, fresh-voiced, with an exceptionally pure soprano line, and smooth in phrasing and blend – though occasionally the smoothness is at the expense of final consonants. Copland’s setting of the opening verses of ‘Genesis’ was conceived for much larger forces than a dozen (or rather 13 with the addition of the pleasant but somewhat unvaried mezzo-soprano soloist Sally Bruce-Payne): even in the friendly acoustic of Greyfriars Kirk and with a sympathetic recording, the ending especially seems a strain. But there is plenty to enjoy and admire here and in Copland’s student motets, as well as in a Barber selection including the Agnus Dei adapted from the famous Adagio for Strings, and the lovely Reincarnations on poems translated from Irish Gaelic.

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Reincarnations crops up again on a disc enterprisingly produced by the Wordsworth Singers, an amateur chamber choir based in the north of England. The rawness of the voices conveys the desperate keening of the second song, ‘Anthony O Daly’, with more force than the well-honed professionalism of the Dunedin Consort. But the tricky Tippett Spirituals stretch the choir and its stand-out soloists to the limit, and lose bite in the thick woolly blanket of the acoustic of Carlisle Cathedral. The Singers sound altogether happier in the more traditional Anglican anthems and partsongs of Edgar L Bainton and Harold East (b1947). Effective performances of organ pieces by both round out a well-varied programme. Anthony Burton