Vaughan Williams: A cappella choral works: Mass in G minor; Three Shakespeare Songs; Three Elizabethan Part Songs; Silence and Music etc

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COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Delphian
ALBUM TITLE: Vaughan Williams
WORKS: A cappella choral works: Mass in G minor; Three Shakespeare Songs; Three Elizabethan Part Songs; Silence and Music etc
PERFORMER: Laudibus/Mike Brewer
CATALOGUE NO: DCD 34074

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Vaughan Williams dedicated his Prayer to the Father of Heaven to the memory of his teacher Parry, ‘in the hope that he would have found in this motet (in his own words) “something characteristic”’. He needn’t have worried: his strong musical personality shines out all through this selection of sacred and secular a cappella music – for example in a series of ‘modern lute songs’ running from the Three Elizabethan Part Songs of 1899 to the Campion setting Heart’s Music 55 years later. And it certainly inhabits the serenely beautiful Mass in G minor of 1922, which recreates the modal flow of Tudor church music, shorn of its defining alternation of discord and resolution, in entirely personal terms. Mike Brewer’s excellent chamber choir Laudibus sings with beautifully blended tone, and good stand-out solo work, in a generous church acoustic which makes possible some uncanny bell sounds in the first of the Three Shakespeare Songs. But this small group doesn’t always achieve the really hushed pianissimo singing which larger choirs find easier. Chiefly for this reason, the Mass doesn’t quite match the very best versions on disc – above all the reverent and radiant performance by Matthew Best’s Corydon Singers on Helios. But as a whole the disc offers much to discover and much to enjoy, and it’s altogether a treasurable contribution to the Vaughan Williams anniversary celebrations. Anthony Burton