COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams,Walton
WORKS: Old Hundredth; Toward the Unknown Region; Benedicte; Orb and Sceptre; Coronation Te Deum
PERFORMER: Choir of Winchester Cathedral; Waynflete Singers; Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/David Hill Lynda Russell
CATALOGUE NO: 436 120-2 DDD
Several of the pieces in this collection were written for big ceremonial occasions in great buildings, and all of them require a spacious acoustic. So it must have seemed appropriate to record the Winchester Cathedral Choir on home ground. But the cathedral’s considerable resonance has provided the engineers with tricky problems, and there are some passages that lack definition as a result.
The massed forces in Vaughan Williams’s thrilling setting of the Old Hundredth psalm are not clearly focused, nor is the sturdy counterpoint in the opening section of the Benedicte. The louder the music gets, and the more complex, the more the recorded sound spreads, while the choir’s characteristic ‘cathedral legato’ smooths over the rhythmic outlines.
Nevertheless, there is much to enjoy: David Hill directs rousing performances of Vaughan Williams’ Toward the Unknown Region and Walton’s Coronation Te Deum, while a touching intimacy illuminates Walton’s Set me as a seal upon thine heart and Vaughan Williams’ O taste and see.
What emerges from listening to the complete disc, however, is that despite his natural vigour and inventiveness, Walton is merely doing a good professional job — his true strengths lie elsewhere. It is Vaughan Williams who continually renews his spirit in unique moments of vision. Anthony Payne