St Albans Cathedral Choir/Andrew Lucas
FHR FHR143 67:57 mins
Such are the attractions of Bruckner’s symphonies that his substantial body of sacred choral music is still neglected. This St Albans recital is an excellent way of getting to know it better.
It starts with a stirring performance of the resplendent motet Ecce sacerdos magnus, the eight-part vocal writing spaciously shaped by conductor Andrew Lucas, with sonorous underpinning from three trombones and the organ. A fourth trombone is added for Inveni David where, writing for a four-part male voice ensemble, Bruckner explores a darker palette of textures.
The St Albans choir has boy trebles, and they blend beautifully with a divided alto line at the beginning of Bruckner’s beatific 1861 setting of Ave Maria. Lucas again moulds the piece eloquently, savouring its strong melodic content without allowing the rhythmic pulse to falter. The same is true of Locus iste, where there is excellent clarity of voice parts within a warmly blended overall tone.
Philip Salmon is the moving tenor soloist in Tota pulchra es, an obvious emotional highlight of the recital. Here, and in Bruckner’s 1884 setting of Christus factus est, the choir’s alert responsiveness to dynamics is a major factor in the communicative success of the performances. Two of Bruckner’s small number of organ pieces – the Prelude and Fugue in C minor and the Postlude in D minor – punctuate the programme, imposingly played by Dewi Rees. They are a welcome bonus in this valuable overview of the lesser known Bruckner.