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Sirens’ Song (The Sixteen)

The Sixteen/Harry Christophers (CORO)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Sirens’ Song
Works by Finzi, I Holst, Maconchy, Stanford, Sullivan and Vaughan Williams
The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
CORO COR16198   63:01 mins

Stanford’s partsong ‘The Blue Bird’ is widely performed and recorded, but the seven other songs in the Op. 119 collection it is drawn from are not. The Sixteen’s beautiful performance is an ideal way of getting to know them. Immaculate vocal blend and intelligent phrasing are a given when The Sixteen sing, and make their ‘Blue Bird’ one of the most mellifluously attractive on record. But it’s the way the technically difficult corners – the staccato accents in ‘The Witch’ and the abrupt rhythmic hairpins in ‘The Train’, for instance – are executed, combining minimal fuss with maximum exactitude, which truly sets their interpretations apart as exceptional.

Imogen Holst’s ‘Welcome Joy’ and ‘Welcome Sorrow’ will also be unfamiliar to  most. A set of six partsongs to Keats’s poetry, its delectable combination of harp and women’s voices is vibrantly captured by The Sixteen’s soprano and alto sections. Harpist Sioned Williams is a tangible presence, and the excellent recording makes her playful imitations of salmon, bee and wasp in ‘Teignmouth’ very clear.

The spurting accelerandos in Finzi’s ‘I have loved flowers that fade’ are superbly timed and implemented, and Christophers is deftness itself in the tricky tempo-flips of the mercurial ‘Haste on, my joys!’ Pieces by Sullivan, Maconchy and Vaughan Williams punctuate the recital. Of these, Sullivan’s ‘The Long Day Closes’ is the most impressive – the choir’s eloquence bringing this outstanding album to a moving conclusion.

Terry Blain

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