COMPOSERS: Mathias,Mawby,Pärt & Howells,Roxanna Panufnik,Rubbra,Tavener
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Westminster Mass
WORKS: Westminster Mass; Missa in Honorem Sancti Dominici
PERFORMER: Westminster Cathedral Choir, City of London Sinfonia/James O’Donnell
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-28069-2
Interest in this collection will centre on the newest work, Roxanna Panufnik’s Westminster Mass, commissioned for the 75th birthday of the late Cardinal Hume and first performed at Westminster Cathedral in May 1998. A setting in English (with a handful of phrases in the original Latin), this 30-minute piece is strong in its use of colour but weak in its provision of memorable musical ideas to match the text; nor does the mildly salacious harmony hide a lack of overall unity in the piecemeal compositional approach.
Panufnik was confirmed as a Roman Catholic nine years ago, when she was 22. Edmund Rubbra was 47 when he converted to the faith in 1948, producing that same year his unaccompanied St Dominic Mass. Impressively scored for four-part choir, this Latin setting is controlled but monotonous. Once more short on memorable ideas, it suffers from a tendency to meander – travelling hopefully, perhaps, but never really arriving.
The finest works here are Mawby’s simple yet visionary Ave Verum Corpus, William Mathias’s straightforward yet finely judged The Doctrine of Wisdom and Howells’s Salve Regina.
Whatever the piece, musical preparation and presentation are exemplary, and while not every detail registers with perfect clarity the richness of the acoustic has been marvellously captured. George Hall