ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Oxford Church Anthems
WORKS: Works by Wood, Gibbons, Howells, Schubert, Bruckner, Handel, Leighton, Rutter, Stanford, Byrd,
PERFORMER: Stephen Farr (organ)Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford/Stephen Darlington
CATALOGUE NO: NI 5440 DDD
If you like your choristers more human than ethereal, this is the disc for you. The richer, more throaty sound of the choir under Stephen Darlington comes into its own in the Edwardian splendour of Wood’s O thou, the central orb and Balfour Gardiner’s Evening Hymn. The same effect enriches the block harmony of the devout Crux fidelis by the 17th-century King John of Portugal but does not always achieve the necessary crispness to delineate the more complex contrapuntal lines of Gibbons, Morley or Victoria.
One of the most moving, and least familiar, works in the selection is Leighton’s Solus ad victimam, set to the imaginative and personal text of the 12th-century philosopher Peter Abelard, its drooping minor 2nds frighteningly bleak.
Compared with the recent adventurous Ikos disc by the choir’s Cambridge counterpart at King’s College, the choice of anthems here feels run-of-the-mill: this is explained by the fact that the music is drawn from Oxford’s New Church Anthem Book, aimed at the average church choir. Lionel Dakers makes a good case for his selection in his booklet notes; and full marks to Nimbus for giving us the complete texts, plus English translations of the Latin. Janet Banks