Barber/Schuman: Reincarnations; Agnus Dei; Perceptions; Mail Order Madrigals

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Barber/Schuman
WORKS: Reincarnations; Agnus Dei; Perceptions; Mail Order Madrigals
PERFORMER: Joyful Company of Singers/Peter; Broadbent; Anthony Saunders (piano)
The ASV disc is a valuable compilation: Schuman’s Mail Order Madrigals offer good value; Perceptions, a clutch of Whitman extracts, includes some pithy miniatures; and the Barber includes some of his most enduring secular snippets.


The meticulously disciplined Joyful Company of Singers tackles 20th-century repertoire with expertise and aplomb, and – within limits – makes a fine job of these modern madrigals. Some slight reservations: their four-part legato can swamp – where the step is lightened (the men-only ‘To the States’, Auden’s ‘The Monk and His Cat’, the Brittenesque start to ‘Reincarnations’) it really tells. Diligent teamwork can’t of itself replace a sense of humour. Tuning is good, but untutored vowels and a fast vibrato marginally detract, and a glutinous portamento causes Barber’s Agnus Dei to ache. The women periodically strain on not desperately high notes. Still, with Timothy Brown’s sprightlier Gamut version now deleted, this is a noble addition to ASV’s burgeoning choral catalogue.


The other disc is an antiquarian-sounding parish-church effort: stolid or wobbly solos and lethargic pacing mar Amy Beach’s frankly cliché-riddled Edwardian liturgical settings. At its worst it’s dire. But three piano-accompanied sacred solos are more affecting, and a smaller choir does infinitely better justice to eight of its conductor’s nicely turned short anthems. Roderic Dunnett