ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Bluebird
WORKS: Choral works
PERFORMER: Choir of New College, Oxford/Edward Higginbottom
CATALOGUE NO: 466 870-2
‘An album of music to pacify the age of anxiety,’ coos the accompanying press blurb. It may provide soothing background for some stressed-out modern wage slaves. But if you intend to listen more closely – which, I presume, is why you buy this magazine – don’t expect to be transported to great heights. On the whole, the sound made by the Choir of New College, Oxford, is beautiful enough, in a smooth, passionless sort of way, and the recordings are atmospheric without being suffocating. But from time to time the boys’ voices harden, nor is their intonation absolutely perfect – it gives an unwelcome edge to the climax of the title piece, Stanford’s exquisite miniature ‘The Bluebird’. Unsurprisingly, the choir sounds best on home territory: traditional Church of England liturgical repertoire from the sublime John Taverner to the sweetly pretty Walford Davies and even sweeter John Rutter. By contrast, the Russian Orthodox liturgical music of Rachmaninoff sounds pallid, soft-focus; hearing it after a real Russian choir is like putting a piece of watery Victorian stained-glass next to a vibrant Byzantine icon. A musical lucky-dip-bag, but with too few succulent items to make it really enticing.