Stainer: The Crucifixion

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: The Crucifixion
PERFORMER: James Gilchrist (tenor), Simon Bailey (bass); Choir of Clare College, Cambridge/Timothy Brown; Stephen Farr (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557624
A favourite of church choirs and choirmasters ever since its first performance in 1887, Stainer’s Crucifixion is nevertheless a piece that some listeners cannot abide. Its merits are its simplicity and some discrete but effective dramatic touches in what is ultimately a Passion setting modelled on Bach – though very considerably shorter and less complex than Bach’s examples. What tells against it is a late-Victorian musical style that at its worst sounds like over-chromaticised Mendelssohn and that can sound strained, cloying and sentimental. But in the capable performance recorded here, in the apt acoustic of Guildford Cathedral, its virtues shine through its stained-glass attitudes. The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge is secure and precise, delivering the text with excellent diction, and tenor soloist James Gilchrist is unfailingly eloquent. Bass Simon Bailey is almost equally vivid, though his tone bulges occasionally. Strong direction from Timothy Brown and finely imagined organ accompaniments from Stephen Farr both prove persuasive in their advocacy of a much maligned but nevertheless memorable and still popular piece. George Hall