Bax/Howells

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bax/Howells
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Five Greek Folk Songs; Mater ora filium; This Worldes Joie; Two Madrigals; The Summer is Coming; Take Him; Earth for Cherishing
PERFORMER: Finzi Singers/Paul Spicer
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9139 DDD
The Finzi Singers were formed in 1987 mainly to perform music by contemporary composers, and they have done so with conspicuous success. Nevertheless, they have not let themselves off lightly with their taxing programme, which makes savage demands on their technique and stamina.

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Bax and Howells are apt associates. Both drew inspiration from the countryside, Bax from the idyllic scenery of Ireland, Howells from the Cotswolds and the Malvern Hills, and both produced music of a timeless quality. This disc includes two premiere recordings – Howells’s Two Madrigals, dating from 1915, and Bax’s Five Greek Folk Songs— and it has to be said that, whatever the challenges, all the performances display considerable flair.

The choir encounters the age-old problem — a reverberant acoustic which floats the music impressively but swallows the words over which they are clearly taking such pains. Sensibly, the complete texts are printed in the booklet.

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There is a touch too much vibrato somewhere in the soprano line, which wobbles the intonation here and there, and the tone is forced at the climax of Bax’s Mater orafilium with its cruel demand for a long-held top C. But what shines through is a real sense of commitment which overrides the few small reservations. Wadham Sutton