Byrd, Mendelssohn, Dearnley, Holst, Wesley, Bingham, Marenzio, Howells, etc
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Epiphany at St Paul’s
PERFORMER: Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral/John Scott; Huw Williams (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67269
Epiphany (which is celebrated on 6 January) commemorates Christ’s manifestation to the wise men of the East. This fascinatingly diverse anthology from John Scott and St Paul’s Cathedral Choir highlights a rich source of inspiration provided for composers by the feast’s central theme – its progression of a journey towards a new life.
Vivid scene-painting in larger-scale pieces, such as Mendelssohn’s powerfully dramatic ‘When Jesus our Lord’ and Wesley’s thrilling ‘Ascribe unto the Lord’, creates highly effective musical narratives. Meanwhile, finely detailed accounts of Byrd’s ‘Praise our Lord’, Handl’s ‘Omnes de Saba venient’ and Marenzio’s ‘Tribus miraculis’ have a tonal brightness and rhythmic vitality that sparkle with festive brilliance.
Overall, the recorded sound copes very well with the cathedral’s spacious acoustic. Despite some blurred focus in the most complex contrapuntal textures, carefully judged trailing echoes enhance the hauntingly prayerful atmosphere of Judith Bingham’s ‘Epiphany’ and the evocative opposition of baritone solo and chorale background in Cornelius’s ‘The Three Kings’. A generally reverberant ambience elsewhere brings heightened intensity to passages of more restrained contemplation, most notably in Eccard’s ‘When to the temple Mary went’, Crotch’s ‘Lo! Star-led chiefs’, Byrd’s ‘Senex puerum portabat’ and the beautifully arranged and sensitively blended hymn-singing. Nicholas Rast