Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in A, Op.12 Parry
I was glad [1911 version] Stanford
Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in G, Op.81 Parry
Coronation Te Deum in D Stanford
Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in B flat, Op.10 Parry
Blest Pair of Sirens Stanford
Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in C, Op.115 Parry, orch. Elgar
Carolyn Sampson (soprano) & David Wilson-Johnson (bass)
Choir of the King’s Consort
The King’s Consort
Recorded 20-22 September 2012 at St Jude’s Church, London NW11
CD No: VIVAT 101 Duration: 68 minutes Reviewed: January 2013
I Was Glad – Sacred Music of Stanford and Parry [The King's Consort/Robert King; Vivat]
Reviewed by Peter Reed
This is the first release of the new independent classical label, Vivat. Robert King has achieved marvels on this recording of choral music by Charles Villiers Stanford and Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, all the works pillars of the Anglican choral tradition from the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Both composers were contemporaries, writing at the peak of Anglican certainties.
Sung in British schools, churches and cathedrals for over a century, Stanford’s Magnificat and Nunc dimittis settings are familiar choir repertoire, but usually performed only with organ. Stanford’s orchestral versions, performed here on period instruments, are a revelation, Brahmsian certainly, but with a lean edginess of great clarity and far removed from billowy cathedral acoustics. King captures the specific moods – grand, tender, public, intimate – with great precision.
Having sung in the G major setting many times, I wasn’t quite prepared for the intensity and sheer joy of Carolyn Sampson’s ecstatic solo in the Magnificat (with ravishing harp accompaniment from Catrin Finch), nor for David Wilson-Johnson’s eloquent and meditative song of Simeon in the Nunc dimittis, both soloists homing in on the spirit of the music. The enveloping tenderness of the B flat Nunc dimittis and the rapture of the C major setting are only two instances of King clearing his way through accretions of Anglican gentility to a fresh, visionary approach to this lovely music.
Parry’s coronation (and now Royal wedding) anthem, I was glad, is performed in his reworking of the 1902 version (for Edward VII) for the 1911 coronation of George V – hence the numerous shout of “Vivat” for Georgius and Maria – pronounced ‘Mar-eye-a’; is that correct? Its processional drama is all sonic splendour, with thrilling drums and bass, in a majestic performance. Parry’s Te Deum, with its underpinning of familiar hymn tunes, gathers magnificently to an overwhelming conclusion, and Blest Pair of Sirens has an attractive lightness and mobility, with the words of Milton’s poem crystal-clear. Elgar’s orchestration of Jerusalem caps this superb release.
King judges the balance between the chorus of 35 and orchestra (around 60, including six trumpets for I was Glad and the Te Deum) in a way that flatters both, with an ear-cleansing separation of sound; the use of the Hereford Cathedral organ (an 1892 instrument, so very much of the period) sounds completely natural, integrated and, where required, of knee-trembling power, courtesy of an electronic organ pre-programmed with the sounds and registrations the instrument in Hereford makes; and the choir is satisfyingly agile and responsive.
I’m not mad about the excellent booklet (with scholarly and informative notes) being glued to the cover, nor about the small, grey print, but please do not let these put you off this exceptional disc.