L Berkeley: Missa brevis; Magnificat & Nunc dimittis; Three Latin Motets; Mass for five voices; A Festival Anthem

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COMPOSERS: L Berkeley
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Missa brevis; Magnificat & Nunc dimittis; Three Latin Motets; Mass for five voices; A Festival Anthem
PERFORMER: St John’s College Choir, Cambridge/Christopher Robinson; Jonathan Vaughn (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557277
Lennox Berkeley, born 100 years ago this year, was a lifelong believer, who converted to Catholicism in 1928; and his pupil John Tavener is not alone in believing that his ‘greatest music is his religious music’. Combining contrapuntal textures derived from Renaissance polyphony with Berkeley’s highly personal harmonic imagination, it is always grateful for voices and always responsive to the text. This selection shows its full range, too, including the two fine Latin Masses written for Westminster Cathedral in the Sixties, and the 1945 Festival Anthem and 1980 Magnificat and Nunc dimittis for Anglican special occasions, as well as the Three Latin Motets composed for the Choir of St John’s in 1972, and the much loved anthem The Lord is My Shepherd.

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The current boys and undergraduates of St John’s handle all this music with confidence and great sensitivity to line and meaning; there are first-rate contributions from the treble and tenor soloists and the organist Jonathan Vaughn. As in previous discs in this series of British choral music, the organ might have been more clearly recorded and final consonants better enunciated. But overall the disc is once more a great credit to the choir and its outgoing director Christopher Robinson. Anthony Burton