Beach, R Thompson

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COMPOSERS: Beach,R Thompson
WORKS: Lord of All Being; Help Us, O God!; Te Deum; Jubilate,
PERFORMER: Harvard University Choir/Murray Forbes Somerville; Erica Johnson (organ)
The redoubtable Amy Beach, pianist, composer and pillar of Boston society, wrote a good deal of sacred music throughout her career. To judge by the selection on this disc, it lapses only rarely into sentimental Victorianism. The 1903 Help Us, O God, a substantial a cappella work on the scale of Brahms’s motets, would stand up well in any choral recital. The 1905 Te Deum and Jubilate, from a complete Service in A, would sound perfectly at home in any English cathedral or college chapel, with its well varied textures and imaginative solo writing: choirboys would compete for the steepling treble entry to ‘O go your way’ in the Jubilate. Randall Thompson, a Harvard professor from 1948, offers rather less in the way of originality: his solemn 1940 Alleluia deserves its popularity with American choirs, but the later pieces are blandly euphonious. The Harvard University Choir, a mixed group of around 40 singers, recorded this programme in London, at the Temple Church. The slightly swimmy acoustic suits the choir’s deliberately ‘Anglican’ sound (fostered by a British-born, Oxford-trained director), with boyish sopranos and a somewhat shallow range of expression, but precise in tuning and attack, and blended to a creamy smoothness. Anthony Burton