Elgar: Sacred Choral Music

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Sacred Choral Music
PERFORMER: Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge/ Christopher Robinson; Jonathan Vaughn (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557288
There is some fine, underrated music in the late 19th- and early 20th-century English church repertoire. But put Elgar’s Great is the Lord or Te Deum beside the best of Stanford, Brewer and their like and it’s clear who is the master. These strong and refined performances should need little recommendation for Elgarians, but even those who normally find the thought of a disc-full of Victorian/ Edwardian church music a potent insomnia cure might be surprised at the quality of the music. And although the ceremonial Elgar makes his presence felt, rather more of this music is sensitive, mysterious or quietly devotional. Naxos and the St John’s College Choir have sensibly opted for a non-chronological approach, so that very early pieces like the Op. 2 Latin motets or ‘O salutaris hostia’ are framed by meatier works. And the magnificent Psalm-setting ‘Give unto the Lord’ makes a suitably compelling opener. Not that those youthful miniatures are simply negligible. There are unmistakable Elgarian traits here, and it’s to the credit of Christopher Robinson and the choir that they clearly take them seriously as well. The recordings are excellent: plenty of church atmosphere, but bright in tone and clear in detail. Stephen Johnson