Sumsion, Howells, Finzi & Elgar

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Finzi & Elgar,Howells,Sumsion
LABELS: Hyperion Helios
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Cathedral Music
WORKS: Works by Sumsion, Howells, Finzi & Elgar
PERFORMER: Worcester Cathedral Choir, Donald Hunt Singers/Donald Hunt (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CDH 55009 Reissue (1983/88)
The English tend to take their cathedral music for granted: Evensong is sung most days in their 43 cathedrals with consummate skill to only a handful of people. It is the repertoire heard by those few – the ‘Mags & Nuncs’ and anthems – that predominates on the Priory disc.

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This is a compilation of recordings from 1987-98 by the Three Choirs, of Festival fame. The choice of music feels rather random, and the booklet notes, consisting entirely of a long essay on the history of the festival, are interesting, but irrelevant to the recording. But against the absence of notes or texts must be weighed up some fine singing – Gloucester rich and immediate under John Sanders in his own searing ‘Reproaches’, and the fresh, crisp sound of Hereford in a more reverberant recording particularly effective in Taverner’s Dum transisset Sabbatum.

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The Worcester Choir of Donald Hunt’s time, singing Bruckner on Priory, is heard to much fuller effect, thanks to the excellence of the recorded sound, on the Hyperion disc, reissued in tribute to Herbert Sumsion, who died in 1995. The choir is joined by the Donald Hunt Singers, whose well-blended sound and precisely turned end consonants enhance the two de la Mare settings by Howells. The cathedral choir seems to have a particular affinity for Sumsion’s music, making one sit up and take notice of this somewhat underrated composer. Janet Banks