Works by Elgar, Howells, Paul Spicer, James MacMillan et al
The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge/Stephen Layton
Hyperion CDA68434 76:23 mins
Broadly defined, anthems are English-language choral pieces typically composed for use in Anglican church services, and they come in many shapes and sizes. Eight are sampled in this first volume of a new series from The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge and their conductor Stephen Layton.
Anthems are bread and butter in the Trinity choir’s weekly diet of chapel services, and their consummate grasp of idiom energises the opening item, Elgar’s ‘Great is the Lord’. Moving with a symphonic sweep across its ten-minute span, it also boasts an excellent bass soloist in the shape of Florian Störtz.
Störtz is joined by four other soloists for Samuel Wesley’s expansive ‘The Wilderness’ (1832), to a text from the book of Isaiah. In essence a mini-oratorio, Wesley’s setting features the soloists both individually and combined, in addition to the choir and a characterful part for organ. A rumbling fugue is impressively marshalled by Layton, and Sumei Bao-Smith’s gleaming soprano adorns the peaceful coda.
Five of the eight anthems featured postdate 1950, an emphasis one hopes will be repeated in future volumes. Of these, James MacMillan’s ‘O give thanks unto the Lord’ is predictably a highlight, its vaulting organ writing athletically dispatched by Jonathan Lee, and matched by the Trinity choir’s thrilling delivery of MacMillan’s declamatory vocal lines.
Paul Spicer’s ‘Come out, Lazar’ is equally dramatic, eliciting a searingly committed performance from the Trinity singers. Followers of British church music will snap this refulgently sung recital up, and await eagerly its successors.