CRD Box Sets

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: CRD
ALBUM TITLE: CRD
PERFORMER: Various
CATALOGUE NO: See text for individual catalogue numbers

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For the first of two boxes from CRD, the Choir of New College, Oxford, with its conductor Edward Higginbottom, turns up in CHORAL MASTERPIECES OF THE ENGLISH RENAISSANCE, a pulling-together of its recordings of Gibbons, Tallis, Taverner, Tomkins and Tye (CRD 5007, 5 discs).

Performances are smoothly blended and graded so that the passing dissonances of Tallis’s O sacrum convivium or Salvator mundi occur naturally in the texture, rather than being highlighted as points of special interest, and are almost more shocking for it.

Some movements – the Glorias of both Taverner’s and Tye’s Western Wind Masses, for example – might seem rushed if you’re used to a more reverential approach, but Higginbottom likes to keep things moving in the acoustic of New College chapel, which, though warm, doesn’t have an enormous reverberation period.

Mastering levels are on the low side, and the otherwise informative booklet misses out the name of the all-important organist on the Gibbons CD, but the set gives a good overview of five of the greatest names in English music. I like Paul Crossley’s way with FAURÉ’s piano music (CRD 5006, 5 discs).

He has the right sort of crystal-clear French sound (he studied in Paris with Yvonne Loriod), and he doesn’t over-pedal, but at the same time there’s no lack of structural strength. Fauré may write beautiful sounds, but he’s not a soft-centred composer, and when it comes to the later Nocturnes and Barcarolles, there’s an underlying sense of bleakness, almost desperation, which needs sensitive control if it’s not to be dissipated.

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Crossley is also able to lighten up for the early Romances sans paroles, and has the right skittishness for the four Valses-caprices, as well as the weight for the Ballade and Theme and Variations.