COMPOSERS: Allegri,Faure,Franck,Grieg,Macmillan,Palestrina,Parry,Parsons,Part,Rachmaninov,Rutter,Tallis & Vaughan Williams
WORKS: Choral Classics from St John’s: Allegri, Fauré, Franck, Grieg, MacMillan, Palestrina, Parry, Parsons, Pärt, Rachmaninov, Rutter, Tallis & Vaughan Williams
PERFORMER: Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge/Andrew Nethsingha; Helen Scarborough (cor anglais), Graham Walker (cello), Timothy Ravalde (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CHSA 5085
The choir of St John’s College, Cambridge follows up its debut Chandos release, an outstanding Howells anthology, with this more populist collection of ‘choral classics’. Populist in no way implies perfunctory: the poised, sentient performance of Allegri’s famous Miserere opening the disc bespeaks dedicated preparation, both technical and spiritual.
I liked the spatial variegations drawn by director of music Andrew Nethsingha in the work’s different sections (specially effective on the SACD layers), and the unobtrusively pregnant phrasing of the tenor plainsong interjections, so often skated over glibly.
As bluff and extrovert as the Allegri is inward-looking, Parry’s ceremonial anthem ‘Hear my words, ye people’ shows the John’s choir do muscular Christianity too – bold and full of body in tutti, and sensitively contrasting in the semi-chorus and solo sections, where I particularly enjoyed bass Tristan Hambleton’s doughty contribution.
Of the shorter pieces Parsons’ ‘Ave Maria’ and MacMillan’s ‘A New Song’ are memorably effective. John’s are a choir in fulsome health. Terry Blain