Mathias: Choral & Organ Music

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COMPOSERS: Mathias
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Choral & Organ Music: Missa brevis; Magnificat and Nunc dimittis; Let the people praise thee, O God; Ave verum corpus; Carillon etc
PERFORMER: Wells Cathedral Choir/Matthew Owens; Jonathan Vaughn (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 677340

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Central to this valuable anthology of Mathias’s church music is the tautly concentrated Missa brevis of 1973. It’s the outer movements that are most impressive, the Kyrie drawn tensely together in a mesh of tight major and minor intervals, the Agnus Dei uneasily stretching forth towards a still distant eternity.

Sustained intensity in the singing here counterbalances the earlier movements in which the tonal balance of the lower voices seems slightly rough around the edges.

‘All wisdom is from the Lord’, to a text from Ecclesiasticus, is cast from the same unquiet spiritual mindset. Much of it is in unison, and such harmonies as exist are again yoked narrowly together, as if symbolising the severe constraints of human understanding pitched against inscrutable eternal mysteries. The performance is marked by a palpable understanding of text and sustained concentration at a slow basic tempo.

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Not all Mathias is inward-looking. ‘Let the people praise thee, O God’, written in 1981 for the marriage of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer, is an exuberant, celebratory piece, and there are others like it, including the jaunty ‘Processional’ for solo organ. Excellent notes by Roderic Dunnett help enormously to ‘place’ both Mathias and his music. Terry Blain