COMPOSERS: Harvey & Tippett,Skempton,Weir
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Flight of Song
PERFORMER: Choir of Queens’ College, Cambridge/James Weeks; Matthew Steynor (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: GMCD 7213
Longfellow’s phrase – ‘Flight of Song’ – invokes the everlasting power of song to inspire poets and musicians. This programme of 20th-century pieces from James Weeks and the Choir of Queens’ College, Cambridge, neatly highlights the harmonious marriage of music and text for which English choral music has long been justly renowned.
The performers illustrate with impressive sensitivity the hypnotic allure (‘Opportunity’), crystalline luminescence (‘Rose-berries’) and curious timelessness (‘Song at the Year’s Turning’) of Skempton’s style. Elsewhere, the choir’s exemplary tonal and dynamic precision interacts dramatically with prominent organ parts in Weir’s evocative images of the celestial city (‘Ascending into Heaven’) and Harvey’s darkly mystical ‘Thou mastering me God’. An exuberant performance of Tippett’s Magnificat and Nunc dimittis confirms the consistent brilliance of the English Cathedral tradition.
Weeks and his team take wing most emphatically, though, in the final Skempton group. In The Flight of Song the evolution from speech to singing in ‘The Arrow and the Song’, the static dissonances of ‘Becalmed’ and the dizzying minimalism of ‘Chimes’ resolve beautifully into the mesmeric swaying of ‘The Tide Rises, and the Tide Falls’. Skempton’s luscious eight-part setting of ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ completes this enchanting concert. Nicholas Rast