WORKS: L’histoire du soldat Suite; Mass; Canticum sacrum; Two Skhes for a Sonata; Pribaoutki; The Cat’s Lullabies; Monumentum pro Gesualdo di Venosa ad CD annum; The Dove Descending
PERFORMER: Katherine Ciesinski (mezzo-soprano), Jon Humphries (tenor), David Evitts (baritone), Mark Wait (piano)Gregg Smith Singers, Orchestra of St Luke’s/Robert Craft
CATALOGUE NO: 1612-67152-2 DDD
The mixed choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, can handle everything from bare medieval carols to Judith Weir with sensitivity and finesse. That said, this isn’t the best of their discs. The choir’s words are, sporadically, excellent, but their Mass is a bit stodgy (instruments and all) despite fine upper solos. I prefer their beautiful feel for the homophonic orthodox Pater noster and Ave Maria.
The Gesualdo is short on sense of direction, and lacks the crucial definition for the Allegri-like opening of ‘Plange quasi virgo’ or the unexpected shifts of ‘O vos omnes’. Laurels to the lower voices, who have some excellent moments (notably ‘Recessit pastor noster’).
Craft’s vocalists score with some splendid, fluid lower voice solos too (in the Canticum sacrum). But the choir in the Mass sounds grotesquely muddy. The high points are the instrumental playing Craft secures, superbly honed in the exquisite Mussorgskian Pribaoutki song cycle (Katherine Ciesinski on fine form) and a Soldier’s Tale that’s deliberately dry, pretty well rubato-free, but beautifully defined, with brass never over the top (a slightly too laid-back ragtime just disappoints). A mixed bag, but a desirable collection. Stravinsky’s readings (now on Sony) remain a rival; so do those of Boulez. Roderic Dunnett