Contemporary Marian Motets: The Marian Consort performs Music for the Queen of Heaven

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COMPOSERS: A Panufnik,Campbell,Dodgson & MacMillan,Frances-Hoad,Howells,Jackson,L Berkeley,Martin,Mcdowall,R Panufnik,Weir
LABELS: Delphian
ALBUM TITLE: Music for the Queen of Heaven
WORKS: Contemporary Marian Motets by L Berkeley, Jackson, Weir, Howells, A Panufnik, R Panufnik, McDowall, Martin, Frances-Hoad, Campbell, Dodgson & MacMillan
PERFORMER: The Marian Consort/Rory McCleery
CATALOGUE NO: DCD34190

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This is the Marian Consort’s eighth CD for Delphian, and just the second time that it has ventured beyond the Renaissance repertoire which made its reputation, into the realm of contemporary and 20th-century composers. 

The theme is music inspired by the Virgin Mary. Should that suggest a programme of unremitting solemnity, try starting with track two, Judith Weir’s blithe, lightly tripping Ave Regina caelorum, given a delightfully aerated performance by the six Marian singers. 

At the other end of the expressive spectrum is the opening of Andrzej Panufnik’s Song to the Virgin Mary, where a crystalline solo by soprano Charlotte Ashley sways tantalisingly in the ether. Supple, delicately balanced part singing energises the warm thrum of Cecilia McDowall’s Alma redemptoris mater, while in Matthew Martin’s Ave virgo sanctissima the range of dynamic detail and tonal contrast achieved by just six voices, in double choir configuration, is highly impressive.

The same impression, of strength in small numbers, is evident amid the hocketing clamour of Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s Gaudete et laetare. And although occasionally – in Howells’s Salve Regina, for instance – more voices might be beneficial, the Marian Consort’s performances deliver full value in terms of expressive range and sophistication.

Pitch-perfect tuning and immaculately clean ensemble grace the poised account of James MacMillan’s Ave maris stella which ends the CD. Paul Baxter’s sensitively engineered recording, and an intriguing choice of cover art (Trygve Skogrand’s Madonna of the Bus-Stop), add further to the attractions of this eminently listenable recital.

Terry Blain