COMPOSERS: Byrd,Choral works by Britten,Harris,Holst,Howells,Parsons,Sheppard,Tallis,Tavener and Rodney Bennett
ALBUM TITLE: The Road to Paradise
PERFORMER: Gabrieli Consort/Paul McCreesh
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6605
Conductor Paul McCreesh programmed this disc to represent the soul’s journey from life through death to Paradise, using English a cappella compositions from the 16th and 20th centuries. It begins with Tallis’s Miserere Nostri and within seconds you wonder if this was wise: after such a gorgeous performance of this sublime music, surely everything else will be an anti-climax.
Well, no. The plainsong Jacet Granum/Prosa Clangat Pastor, reaching back several centuries further, emulates it for grace, depth of feeling and sense of wonder. This is the rich soil from which everything else here sprang. Parsons’s lovely Ave Maria is followed by another Hymn to the Virgin, that by the teenaged Britten who first set this 13th-century carol in a few hours. Harmonically sweeter than his mature music, it was later sung at his own funeral.
The recital’s radiant heart is Sheppard’s Media Vite, but there are more highlights to come, including an outstanding reading of Holst’s Nunc Dimittis, the glowing textures of Harris’s Bring Us, O Lord and Howells’s Take Him, Earth. Tavener’s Song for Athene is very moving, fits the concept of the album well and is beautifully performed. There are at least 18 recordings of it already, but this is as good as any.