Hildegard Of Bingen, SchŸtz, Byrd, Tchaikovsky, Parry, Holst, Tavener, etc

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COMPOSERS: Byrd,etc,Hildegard Of Bingen,Holst,Parry,Schátz,Tavener,Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Collegium
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Blessed Spirit
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Choir of Clare College, Cambridge/Timothy Brown
CATALOGUE NO: COLCD 127
Cover and title may suggest yet another floaty church-mood-music collection. In fact, serious thought has gone into the choice and sequence of the works. The subtitle ‘Music of the Soul’s Journey’ means not the individual’s search for enlightenment but the darker question of what happens to the soul after death, as addressed in music of the Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican and Free Church traditions. The story is told in three parts: ‘At our departing’, ‘Towards the Gate of Heaven’ and ‘The Heavenly Kingdom’. Gregorian chant rubs shoulders with Black American Spirituals; Tchaikovsky’s Romantic-Byzantine ‘Blessed are they’ follows Schutz’s austere ‘Blessed are the Dead’; two movements from Walford Davies’s cosily Anglican ‘Short Requiem’ yield to the ice-cold luminosity of Holst’s magnificent ‘The Evening Watch’. But there’s no incongruity. It is possible to chart a kind of spiritual progress here. There’s even room for a flicker of agnostic irony – as in Parry’s ‘There is an old belief’. The singing of the mixed-voice Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, is very persuasive and admirably secure (even in Holst’s difficult fourth-based harmonies), and the acoustic of Ely Cathedral’s Lady Chapel is as lovely as the room itself – though the recording lets it have its own way a bit too much; you can have atmosphere and clarity. Stephen Johnson

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