Rachmaninov, Penderecki, Stravinsky And Panufnik

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Penderecki,Rachmaninov,Stravinsky And Panufnik
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Credo
WORKS: Works by Rachmaninov, Penderecki, Stravinsky and Panufnik
PERFORMER: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge/Stephen Cleobury
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 56439 2
The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, although a little ropey ten years ago, now seems to be on one of those highs which great choirs enjoy when an outstanding intake of men and boys influences others and succeeding generations.

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This disc, made with an eye to the market but with a coherent, absorbing East European programme, speaks volumes for the bright musicianship of King’s. An accolade should go to EMI’s technicians: the mikes are in all the right places, catching both individuality and blend with outstanding clarity.

Cleobury’s sound is not Willcocks’s: instead of silkiness we hear guts and urgency, just as this repertoire demands. Build-ups are intense, fadeouts beautiful. The most extended piece, Panufnik’s Song of the Virgin Mary, comes over especially memorably, with the composer’s characteristic juxtaposed major and minor harmonies culminating in anguished appeals. The boys ride through Penderecki’s tricky, almost modal chromaticisms with disarming ease; yet where the music shrieks, they do too.

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The boys take Slavonic texts in their stride. The first Rachmaninov work in particular (‘Blazhen muzh’) is amazingly full-bodied, the second (with an almost disembodied solo) a fraction fast; but in Stravinsky’s Ave Maria, also brisk, the rhythmic precision and meticulous tuning show just what thorough preparation, alert discipline and intelligence permeate this disc. Roderic Dunnett