WORKS: The Crucifixion
PERFORMER: Martyn Hill (tenor), Michael George (bass), Margaret Phillips (organ); BBC Singers, Leith Hill Festival Singers/Brian Kay
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9551
The Crucifixion is surely Stainer’s most enduring composition. To use Piers Burton-Page’s words (in the CD booklet’s affectionate tribute to the work), which ‘mighty cathedral or humble parish church, town hall or assembly room’ has not witnessed a performance of the work since its appearance in 1887? Although critics have doubted the integrity of both music and text, the work has held its own and continues to bear musical testimony to the Anglican religiosity that formed it: muscular but tempered — despite the common assumptions — with dignified sentiment, democratic in its employment of the congregation, and dutifully respectful of past role models.
Capturing all these properties from the outset, Kay’s recording is made all the more heartfelt and absorbing by the soloists and accompanist; exquisite solo singing is supported by a judicious organ accompaniment, none of the protagonists ever overplaying their expressive hands nor undervaluing their powers to move. Andrew McCrea