WORKS: Weir: Choral music: Vertue; Ascending into Heaven; Psalm 148; little tree; Two Human Hymns; Wild Mossy Mountains; Ettrick Banks etc
PERFORMER: Matthew Fletcher, Annie Lydford (organ); Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge/Geoffrey Webber
CATALOGUE NO: Delphian DCD 34095
This disc contains all Judith Weir’s music for chorus, unaccompanied or with a single instrument. It ranges from her popular 1983 anthem, Ascending into Heaven, to her 2009 setting of Psalm 148, with its improbable but highly effective obbligato trombone. The Two Human Hymns, settings of 17th-century devotional poems by George Herbert and Henry King, are intended for a student choir.
Vertue, to more Herbert, is written for a professional consort, and little tree, settings of e.e. cummings, is designed for a New York children’s choir with marimba. All of it sounds characteristically fit for purpose. Furthermore, it carries off the trick of taking harmonies and textures from musical history – mediaeval organum, psalm chants, Purcell, even Victorian hymns – and making them sound new.
The freshness and precision of Weir’s writing is perfectly matched by the well tuned, clearly articulated singing of Geoffrey Webber’s Gonville & Caius Choir, one of Cambridge’s outstanding mixed college choirs. Nearby Jesus College Chapel provides an ideal acoustic for the beautifully judged recording, and its Kuhn organ offers Matthew Fletcher some pellucid colours for two modest, effective, solo organ pieces inspired by Weir’s native Scotland. Highly recommended. Anthony Burton