Allain When I'm Gone

Passionate, profound music inspires these performers, but the recording disappoints

Author: 
Marc Rochester

Allain When I'm Gone

  • Salve Regina
  • At Night I Seek the One My Spirit Loves
  • Bow Down Thy Ear, O Lord
  • Missa Brevis
  • Improperia
  • Memento Homo
  • Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel?
  • It's Me,O Lord
  • Don't You Weep When I'm Gone
  • (A) Babe is Born
  • Coventry Carol

These pieces reflect Richard Allain’s strong Christian faith. His burning desire to communicate his beliefs has resulted in music which is passionate, profound, emotionally charged, and which has clearly inspired these performers. Both the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and Laudibus produce singing of intensity and conviction, while John Harle, always the consummate virtuoso, seems inspired here; the purely instrumental Memento Homo is simply breathtaking.

That said, I am inclined to the opinion that soprano saxophone and organ combine to produce one of the ugliest sounds known to man and while Matthew Owens courageously exploits the dynamic extremes of the organ of St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, the recording keeps him sufficiently distant to prevent all but the harshest of timbral clashes. The other track recorded in Edinburgh places Harle so far forward that neither Owens nor a remarkably boyish-voiced Susan Hamilton can provide much of value in the setting of words by Allain’s brother, At Night I Seek The One My Spirit Loves.

The remainder was recorded in St Barnabas, Dulwich, but again the recording lets the side down. Even if the three African-American spirituals do merely carry on where Tippett left off, they abound in luxuriant harmonies and beautifully crafted writing. The closing bars of ‘Don’t you weep when I’ve gone’ create a suitable culmination but the effect is marred by a recording lacking space or depth, which unfortunately draws attention to some less than perfect tuning within the NYCGB.

Magical moments abound, and in these Brewer draws the best from his singers: notably in an amazing effect of pealing bells (around 4'10" into the Salve Regina) and translucent tone in the longest single work – and possibly the most moving – on the disc, Improperia.

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