ALBUM TITLE: Swayne
WORKS: Convocation: Missa Tiburtina; Passiontide Motets; A Convocation of Worms, Op. 67; Midwinter, Op. 91; Winter Solstice Carol, Op. 79 etc
PERFORMER: Stephen Wallace (countertenor); National Youth Choir of Great Britain/Mike Brewer; Michael Bonaventure organ)
CATALOGUE NO: DCD34033
Giles Swayne’s breakthrough came in 1980 with his CRY for voices and electronics. In a sense it is emblematic of his whole oeuvre; all of it cries out in one way or another, from the Passiontide motets, text taken from the plangent Stabat Mater, to Tiger, tiger burning bright‚ filled with jungle screeches and whoops. This is big music, employing the widest possible resources of rhythm, tuning and characterisation, and as such is exceptionally demanding.
The two choirs on this disc make a very creditable fist at it. There’s no doubt that they enter wholeheartedly into the spirit of the music. Rhythmically, they do justice to the well-known Magnificat and the punchy sections of the Missa Tiburtina. If sometimes the tuning slips, I struggle to think of groups that could do it better. The Passiontide motets and the Mass, with its elision of visceral atonality and balm-like chording, both hit the solar plexus pretty hard, and that is what will make this disc hard to forget. There are also highly coloured contributions from organ and countertenor (Stephen Wallace), which are strange but effective. William Whitehead