ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Illumina
WORKS: Hymn to the Creator of Light; Bring us, O Lord God
PERFORMER: Choir of Clare College, Cambridge/Timothy Brown
CATALOGUE NO: COLCD 125
Tim Brown must have had fun putting this programme together, selecting a pleasing variety of works linked by the theme of light. Appropriately, there’s a luminosity about the sound produced by his choir, here transplanted to the Lady Chapel of its home cathedral, Ely, in search of the optimum acoustic.
The choir’s excellent technique ensures there is not one uneven performance among the 18 a cappella tracks. Harris’s ‘Bring us, O Lord God’ is perhaps the most impressive, with its marvellously smooth, warm flow of sound; but the ‘early’ items also shine. The two Palestrina hymn settings have a refreshing sensuality to their swelling polyphony, and the mellifluous lines of Hildegard and Josquin are positively curvaceous. The men’s voices sound fresh and eager in the Gregorian chant, though the solo voices are a little strained.
Not surprisingly, certain texts recur, often in different languages: the Greek hymn ‘Hail, gladdening light’, for instance, is heard in English (Wood), Finnish (Rautavaara) and Russian (Grechaninov and Tchaikovsky.
This is the choir’s debut on Collegium, the label of its former musical director John Rutter (represented here by his ‘Hymn to the Creator of Light’). The intelligent musicality of the performances, complemented by full texts and well-presented, relevant notes, ensure it comes highly recommended. Janet Banks