BAIRSTOW Our Father In The Heavens

Record and Artist Details

With our cathedral, abbey and church choirs so sadly silenced and the future of their cultural inheritance under threat, it is good that Regent Records can remind us of some of this precious glory with an impressive survey of anthems by one of the pivotal figures in early 20th-century British choral music, Edward Cuthbert Bairstow (1874-1946). Raised in a strict Methodist family in Huddersfield, a Freemason and master Meccano hobbyist, Bairstow was renowned for his bluntness, especially with amateur choruses. A key figure in the raising of choral standards, particularly in the north of England during his long 33-year tenure at York Minster, he can be considered one of the most significant composers of anthems since SS Wesley. Here are about half of his output of anthems, including two premiere recordings.

The Tewkesbury Abbey Schola Cantorum open a splendid disc with the best-known, Blessed city, heavenly Salem, a series of variations on the plainsong hymn ‘Urbs beata Hierusalem’, given here in a typically impassioned performance. Bairstow’s fondness for variation form also informs Of the Father’s love begotten and Lord, thou hast been our refuge, this latter painted on a large emotional canvas. How one craves the original orchestral accompaniment. The unaccompanied pieces fare particularly well, especially the disc’s title-track, Our Father in the heavens (1932), and the introit Let all mortal flesh (1906), both of which demand vocal stamina and perfect pitching. In comparison to the Westminster Abbey Choir’s disc of music by Bairstow, Harris and Stanford (Hyperion, 6/19), the Tewkesbury choristers have the edge, with their vitality of tone, clarity of diction and willingness to stir up the underlying dramatic impetus.

As with Warlock’s song piano accompaniments, Bairstow’s organ parts are masterpieces in their own right, chock-full of colour and sumptuous quasi-orchestral detail. Carleton Etherington clearly relishes the challenge, totally at one with choir director Simon Bell.

Let us hear more Bairstow from these wonderful executants. It is also high time that his exquisite violin Variations of 1916 (composed for Sibyl Eaton) were commercially recorded.

Gramophone Print

  • Print Edition

From £67/year

Subscribe

The Gramophone Digital Club

  • Digital Edition
  • Digital Archive
  • Reviews Database
  • Events & Offers

From £90/year

Subscribe

Gramophone Reviews

  • Reviews Database

From £67/year

Subscribe

Gramophone Digital Edition

  • Digital Edition
  • Digital Archive

From £67/year

Subscribe

If you are a library, university or other organisation that would be interested in an institutional subscription to Gramophone please click here for further information.