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Rachmaninov: All-Night Vigil (King’s College London)

The Choir of King’s College London/Joseph Fort

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

All-Night Vigil
The Choir of King’s College London/Joseph Fort
Delphian DCD34296   53:10 mins


Delphian’s recording producer Paul Baxter is cited on the back cover blurb as suggesting this is ‘the definitive recording’ – which seems reckless, given the dozens of unquestionably more authentic versions already available. Better to say this offers an attractive listening experience, sung by a decent Anglican chapel choir. It’s a concert-style performance, without any liturgical chanting or the choral ‘Amins’ (written in the score) intended as responses to these.

The blurb adds that ‘the recording is intentionally designed to bring out the bell-like phrases that ring through the whole piece’. Those ‘phrases’ are less ubiquitous than this suggests, although the staccato required in ‘Velikoye slavosloviye’ (track 12) is meticulously articulated – indeed the choir’s attention to detail is admirable throughout.

Unfortunately, the recording’s mic placement favours the upper voices at the expense of especially the basses, whose 11 voices – while matching the sopranos in number – lack the characteristic heft of Russian choral basses; they reach the notorious low B flat in the Nunc dimittis (track 5), but too often are overshadowed by the tenors, let alone the upper voices. Meanwhile, the sopranos and altos are caught in soloistic detail – highlighting some voices with over-prominent vibrato – and dramatic contrasts between official solos (decently taken) and the full choir are often lost.


Daniel Jaffé