Collection: Twentieth-Century Choral Music

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Gorecki,Part,Ridout,Tavener
LABELS: EMI Eminence
WORKS: Summa; The Beatitudes; Seven Magnificat Antiphons; The Lamb; Funeral Ikos; Two Hymns to the Mother of God; Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis; Litany; Totus tuus
PERFORMER: Vasari Singers/Jeremy Backhouse, Andrew Angus (bass), John Keys (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-EMX 2251

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After the success of Ikos, King’s College Cambridge’s Christmas 1994 release, other choirs are cashing in – both these discs were recorded two months later, and both have at least three works in common with it. The King’s Singers use the now familiar repertoire as a sweetener for the premiere recordings of a couple of works commissioned for them, by Richard Rodney Bennett and Geoffrey Poole, which together fill more than half the disc.

Whereas their slick, oh-so-smooth sound feels at odds with the timeless nature of Górecki’s Totus tuus or Tavener’s Funeral Ikos, the two commissioned works, though rather dominated by their texts – medieval poetry for Poole and vast chunks of Donne’s philosophical prose for Bennett – give them a better opportunity to display their incredible vocal agility. The Vasari Singers, like King’s College before them, mix Pärt with Górecki and Tavener, and perform them with depth and sensitivity.

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Having women’s, rather than men’s voices on the top line gives the disc a clearer, more radiant sound than that of the King’s Singers, and the Vasari’s director Jeremy Backhouse makes the most of this quality in very slow, sustained endings to pieces like Tavener’s The Lamb. The recorded sound is pleasing, if sometimes a little distant. Janet Banks