Music for Passiontide
Clare College Choir’s recording of music for Passiontide, interspersed with the plainchant Stabat mater dolorosa text, is not only a collection of some of the most beautiful choral music to be heard but exciting evidence of the evolving and unique identity of the choir itself. In Victoria’s O vos omnes in particular the crescendos can be all-consuming, the perfect arch of the music more than making up in musical integrity what it might very slightly lack in absolute precision of consonants and consistency of tone. It bears all the hallmarks – as do all the works on this disc – of a piece that has been extensively and intelligently crafted, which is not as prevalent a practice in the performance of this repertoire as it might always be.
It is not to be ignored that this is a very young choir – the lightness of the bass-line is particularly apparent in John Sanders’s beautifully intricate and rarely performed responsorial The Reproaches, which presents walls of sound that need an even spread all the way through the parts. But although the balance is a little thrown by that inequality – which inevitably creates an undesirable top-heaviness in the texture – it is mitigated by a smoothly robust alto line that supports the sound and runs through the texture (as it does in plenty of other places on this disc) as a strengthening and supporting thread. And besides, these are only tiny criticical observations to make of this disc: highlighting them serves simply to illustrate its accomplishment. The singing and, above all, direction are of such consummate musicianship that those small perceived imperfections barely matter at all.