COMPOSERS: Byrd; Palestrina; Croce; Bevan; Parsons; etc
ALBUM TITLE: Miserere: A sequence of music for Lent, St Joseph and the Annunciation
WORKS: A sequence of music for Lent, St Joseph and the Annunciation
PERFORMER: Westminster Cathedral Choir/Martin Baker
CATALOGUE NO: CDA67938
This is a disc for those who love the acoustic, the atmosphere and the musical traditions of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in London. Aside from many historical works from the Catholic liturgy, it also features three more recent directors and composers associated with Westminster – George Malcom (d1997); David Bevan (b1951); and Colin Mawby (b1936). Of these modern pieces, Mawby’s Justus ut palma has real drama and is well performed. Malcolm’s Scapulis suis has a certain distinction, too, though his other pieces are somewhat derivative (with nods to Allegri and Bruckner).
This is a large choir, very good at big effects. The pacing and cohesion in the Agnus Dei of Palestrina’s Missa Emendemus in Melius is accomplished and moving, and their singing of plainsong with organ (Audi benigne) second-to-none. Elsewhere, the indiscipline of the male voices as compared to that of the boys is in evidence. In a sound striving to be cohesive and seamlessly monumental, it is unfortunate that the tuning of the lower parts sometimes dissolves into a kind of muddy grating (Byrd’s Emendemus), and that the assertive individuality of some (rather fine) voices is not always kept under control ‘for the greater good’.