Sacred Choral Works
This disc must rank very high in the annals of church-music recording. Its quality is even all through. Though it may be impertinent to try to find reasons for such success, there are three factors which are of interest. Firstly, this music is not 'native' to the Westminster Abbey Choir. Theirs is therefore a new study, a fresh look. They not only place themselves in a rather unexpectedly warm spiritual environment (their admirable enunciation sounds utterly natural) but they step into the sunshine, as Sellars and Yeatman put it, non angeli sed Anglicani. Well, they pack plenty of punch and their tone is rosy and, where required, passionate. That takes some doing for an Anglican choir whose discipline normally frowns upon the sort of individuality which the sinners concerned term artistry. Here the discipline is as tight as ever. Nobody even puts one foot over the edge, but the men especially make their crescendos glow and individual parts are clearly heard, though always in balance. The boys remain Englishmen. Their tone is well rounded, though sometimes encourage to thin momentarily by a push from the male altos. And this would be the moment to reveal that the choir's constitution is plumper than one might expect.
The 14 boys are balanced by five male altos, six tenors and six basses. Thus there is no top heaviness. This rich balance is my second point. The third is that the choir has stepped out of the Abbey into the welcoming acoustic of All Saints, Tooting, which is ideal for the purpose. Having offered these small analytical details, I must add some brief comment on the programme as a whole.
The choir's response to the demands of each item changes markedly. For instance, the abundance of men becomes evident at the start of Allegri's Miserere, a far richer sound than I remember from other choirs. Then, in this same piece, the semi-chorus, with its top C boy (anonymous) is considerably distanced. This takes away a good deal of anxiety and also emphasizes the robust nature of the plainsong when we return to it. The three shorter pieces, by Anerio, Nanino and Giovannelli, increasingly produce excited tone. The final Jubilate is a blaze of glory. I could not wish for a finer feast than this. Compact Disc gives a shade more edge. One is more conscious of teeth.'