Collection: A Cappella

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms,Britten,Pearsall,Schumann
LABELS: Collegium
WORKS: Music from England, Germany & France
PERFORMER: Cambridge Singers/John Rutter
CATALOGUE NO: COLCD 119 DDD

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John Rutter’s Cambridge Singers are certainly one of the best a cappella groups around. No BBC Singers wobble, a youthful sound and very little of the self-indulgence which can so easily smudge an over-silky tone. This disc has many pleasures, but there are some problems. Auden’s crucial words to Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia don’t always get across; in Pearsall’s sumptuous Victorian elegy, Lay a Garland, every cascading phrase really needs to be shaped immaculately.

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Schumann’s double choruses (to dreamy and visionary texts by Rückert and others) could be tighter, though the four exquisite, buoyant early Brahms love songs for upper voices are attractively done. This multi-talented group is at its relaxed best in neglected Delius (The Splendour Falls on Castle Walls) and a rich collection of French song rooted in the mediaeval chanson – Ravel’s ‘Birds of Paradise’, with its tender solo, or the witty parody of ‘Nicolette’, all to the composer’s own texts; Debussy’s influential Trois Chansons de Charles d’Orléans; above all, Poulenc’s eight Chansons françaises of 1945, which offer a marvellous variety. ‘Clic, clac dansez sabots’ gets the palm for both performance and recording. The sound, merely adequate at the start, feels much warmer later on. Roderic Dunnett