Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, Volume 11
The series must now have gathered in more than 100 settings of canticles for Evensong, and these latest volumes bring no sense of declining quality. Indeed, the St Edmundsbury disc opens with one of the most delightful, very little known either through the service-lists or on record. This is Heathcote Statham’s, a lyrical piece of writing, very personal in its style, distinctive and remarkably consistent. Most striking in their programme is the Rubbra, with its strong, uncompromising start suggesting a kind of terror in the awe of this celebration. Settings in D major tend to be cheerful and businesslike, which is so with both Moeran’s and Charles Wood’s. D minor brought the best out of Walmisley, and may for all I know have done so with George Bennett, but there is a touch of the barber-shop in his “He remembering”. That is a setting for men’s voices (and good for singing, I imagine); the two settings for boys only, one by John Wood, the other by Stuart Beer, are attractive and well designed to bring the best out of their singers. Rose in C minor does that and more, another example of the originality which these ancient texts still inspire.
The Ripon choir commit themselves valiantly to a sequence of early settings, less spectacular and more unsparing in their exposure of the voices. Tomkins and Weelkes are relatively elaborate, as wearing their festal robes, with Tallis and Amner in plainer everyday garb. For the rest it is good to have Charles Wood and William Harris, experts in the tradition, while leaving no doubt that Dyson in D fully deserves its extra measure of popularity.
The standard of performance is fine. Both choirs produce good full-bodied sound, Ripon showing the greater subtlety, St Edmundsbury more opulence of tone. Recorded sound is very satisfying in its presentation of both choirs (none of the remoteness that characterizes so many choral records). Both have useful booklets, but in Vol. 11 we need more dates (of composers and compositions) and Vol. 12 fails to bring its order into line with the programme as performed. One other cause for remark: in (as far as I know) all the records in this series the accompaniments are played by the assistant organists, who invariably do admirable work, the present two being sufficiently distinguished to draw a little extra attention.'