WORKS: The Dancers; Two Choruses; Ave maris stella; Six Gerard Manley Hopkins Poems
PERFORMER: Eiddwen Harrhy (soprano), Helen Watts (contralto), Caryl Thomas (harp); Richard Hickox Singers, City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9617 Reissue (1984)
Both these handsome reissues do Chandos’s Welsh Music Series proud. Mathias wrote two splendid extended choral works (the other, This Worlde’s Joie, has been beautifully recorded by Lyrita). This fine Lux aeterna recording followed the triumphant 1982 premiere at the Three Choirs Festival. All three soloists capture persuasively the work’s progress from darkness to light (Mathias interweaves texts from St John of the Cross with sections of the Requiem). The choruses, including the alert Windsor Chapel boys, are impassioned and exciting. David Willcocks coaxes the best from all forces.
As he was for Mathias, so Britten was a presiding deity for Grace Williams (1906-77). Hers is an intriguing voice. The haunting poignancy of her six Hopkins settings, sung by the magnificent contralto Helen Watts with excellent string sextet, and the evocative choral filigree of The Dancers cycle, entrancingly led by soprano Eiddwen Harrhy, amount to a captivating, individual talent. The sound is edgier and less rounded than on the Mathias disc. Roderic Dunnett