ALBUM TITLE: Stanford
WORKS: For lo, I raise up; Te Deum; Lighten our darkness; Benedictus; O for a closer walk with God; Jubilate; Magnificat; Fantasia and Toccata in D minor; Eternal Father; St Patrick’s Breastplate
PERFORMER: Choir of Trinity College Cambridge; Trinity Brass/Stephen Layton; Owain Park, Alexander Hamilton (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 68174
The fierce onslaught of the opening anthem, For Lo, I Raise Up, takes the breath away, even if you know in advance that there’s nothing wilting about Stanford’s English church music. Symphonic in scope, packed with drama, sturdy in build, throbbing with succulent melodies, these are pieces guaranteed to lift the soul and stiffen the backbone of believers and non-believers alike. Nothing in the Trinity College choir’s astute selection quite beats that opening fury (stirred by the early horrors of the First World War), though the eight-part Magnificat’s closing jubilation is equally memorable in its own way.
Variety is the watchword. The unaccompanied items flow along in the college chapel’s intimate acoustic, a boon especially for the Magnificat’s rich textures and the Latin motets, and an acoustic Stanford knew well from his years as director of music. For the pieces with organ, reinforced twice with brass and percussion, we graduate to the reverberating embrace of Hereford Cathedral, whose Willis organ is put through its paces by Owain Park in the loveably grandiose D minor Fantasia and Toccata – Bach in Romantic dress.
Stocked with female voices rather than boy trebles, the Trinity choir attack this repertoire with a brisk attack and mature aplomb under Stephen Layton’s sensitive direction. There is so much to cherish here, whether Stanford is punching the air or praying in quiet wonderment.