Burgon: At the round earth’s imagined corners; The Assumption; Short Mass etc

COMPOSERS: Burgon
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Burgon
WORKS: At the round earth’s imagined corners; The Assumption; Short Mass etc
PERFORMER: Choir of Wells Cathedral, David Bednall (organ), Alan Thomas (trumpet)/Matthew Owens
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67567
The Nunc Dimittis, composed as the signature tune for the TV series Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the most familiar piece on this CD. It entered the pop charts in 1979, and its slow moving harmonies and long melodic lines are characteristics in several other pieces here, even the companion Magnificat, though the organ accompaniment there is much more rhythmic. And the trumpet obbligato which was such a feature of the Nunc Dimittis also surfaces in ‘At the round earth’s imagined corners’, together with the single high vocal line, though with a less memorable melody.

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The choir uses girls, rather than boys, giving a rounder sound than you might get from an all-male choir. Burgon’s fond of contrasting the sopranos with the rest of the choir, and I sometimes found myself wanting the edge and even that slight precariousness that boys would bring. In ‘Of flowers and emeralds sheen’, the central solo is too comfortable, though perhaps that fits well with Burgon’s style. It’s firmly in the Anglican tradition, and across the 18 tracks there’s a sense that the harmonies are spicy, but not too hot. The music is gratefully written for voices, expertly performed, and warmly recorded – just slightly anonymous. Martin Cotton