David Hill conducts Stabat Mater, Song to the Soul and The Resurrection by Stanford

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COMPOSERS: Stanford
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Stanford
WORKS: Stabat Mater; Song to the Soul; The Resurrection
PERFORMER: Elizabeth Cragg (soprano), Catherine Hopper (mezzo-soprano), Robert Murray (tenor), David Soar (bass); Bach Choir; Bournemouth Symph Orch/David Hill
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573512  

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Here is David Hill’s latest in a string of excellent choral recordings for Naxos. His fiery shaping of the Prelude to Stanford’s Stabat Mater shows how responsive the Bournemouth orchestra has become to his direction; and his powerful shaping of the ‘Stabat Mater dolorosa’ movement locks players and singers tightly together in the sizzling crescendo at ‘Pertransivit gladius’, and again on the pulsatingly climactic ‘Et flagellis subditum’.

Hill excels in the final movement, at 13 minutes the work’s longest. The solo singing, heartfelt throughout, is particularly gripping in the opening stanza, and Hill builds tension expertly towards the tutti at ‘In die judicii’, a truly inflammatory moment here. The protracted coda glows with benediction, with a delicious soft landing at the a cappella conclusion. 

Two shorter works, both first recordings, complete the album. Song to the Soul conflates two Stanford songs to texts by Walt Whitman into a single choral movement: while Stanford’s relatively workaday setting doesn’t rise to the visionary levels of Whitman’s paean to ‘the unknown region’, it has its moments, particularly in the lusty setting of ‘Joy, shipmate, joy!’, which the Bach Choir zestfully tucks into. In The Resurrection, a youthful Stanford sets the same poem by Klopstock as Mahler used 20 years later in his Resurrection Symphony. The results aren’t Mahler-apocalyptic, but Stanford enthusiasts will welcome both the newly recorded pieces.

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Terry Blain