religious music

ROSSINI - STABAT MATER       NAXOS 8.573531

Rossini - Stabat MaterGioacchino Rossini, born in 1792 the son of an Italian town crier, became the most influential and famous composer of his day. He retired from composing at the height of his fame, aged just 37, having written 40 operas in 20 years. Rossini’s main achievement was to bring to comic opera the same expressiveness and vocal techniques that tragic opera had always demanded. He also wrote a good deal of sacred music, including his Stabat Mater. Based on the traditional structure of the Stabat Mater for chorus and soloists, Rossini initially he used his own librettos and compositions for a portion of the work and, eventually, the remainder by his friend Giovanni Tadolini, who composed six additional movements. Rossini presented the completed work as his own and it is now one of the staples of the sacred music repertoire. It was composed late in his career, after he had retired from the composition of opera, beginning the work in 1831 but not completing the final version until 1841. Tadolini’s pieces now only exist as piano reductions but conductor Antonino Fogliani has orchestrated them to allow listeners to hear the original work for the first time since 1833. Marco Tarelli’s 2009 orchestration of Giovanna d’Arco (Joan of Arc), a cantata for solo voice, is also included on this CD in its first recording. Antonino Fogliani conducts the Camerata Bach Choir and Württemberg Philharmonic Orchestra, with soloists Majella Cullagh (soprano), José Luis Sola (tenor) and Mirco Palazzi (bass).

HANDEL – ORATORIOS        CARUS 83.040

Handel OratoriosGeorge Friederich Handel was a born the son of a barber-surgeon in Halle, Germany, in 1685 but lived most of his adult life in England, becoming a British citizen on in 1727. He lived at 25 Brook Street in London - where he composed his Messiah, Zadok the Priest and Fireworks Music - from 1723 until his death in 1759 (his funeral drew a crowd of three thousand mourners when he was buried in Westminster Abbey). Now commemorated by a blue plaque and home to the Handel House Museum, the building stands next to 23 Brook Street, where another blue plaque celebrates the residence of another musician, Jimi Hendrix. Händel was the most renowned musical figure of his day and a national treasur whose. music greatly influenced many of the composers who followed, including Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. His choral oratorio, Israel in Egypt, was the fifth of the nineteen oratorios which he composed in England. It was not well received by audiences when it premiered in 1739, though today it is difficult to see why there was such contemporary coolness towards such a powerful work that in the next century would attain popularity second only to Messiah (‘The finest Composition of Musick that ever was heard’). Handel’s other oratorios were very popular during his lifetime and were frequently performed. Ssince 2009 Carus has been issuing recordings of these masterpieces and this superb box set of 13 CDs includes both Israel in Egypt and Messiah as well as Alexander’s Feast, Brockes-Passion, Solomon and the relatively unknown gem L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato. The artists include the Kölner Kammerchor under Peter Neumann, Kammerchor Stuttgart under Frieder Bernius, Vocalensemble Rastatt under Holger Speck and Winchester Cathedral Choir under Nicolas McGegan. Handel’s hugely successful oratorios made a lasting impression on English music and their continuing popularity is celebrated in this excellent collection.

CAMPRA - MESSE DE REQUIEM       CARUS 83.391

Campra - Messe de RequiemAndré Campra was one of the most important early 18th century French composers of operas and sacred music in the period between Jean-Baptiste Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau. Campra was the son of a surgeon and violinist from Italy and his father was his first music teacher. He became a choirboy in the Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur at Aix in 1674 and began ecclesiastical studies four years later, becoming a chaplain in 1681. He served as music director at the cathedrals of Arles, Toulouse and at Notre-Dame de Paris, where he controversially added violins to the performance of sacred music. Already well known for his motets, he began to compose for the theatre and published some theatrical compositions under his brother’s name to protect his reputation with church authorities. In 1700 he gave up his post at Notre-Dame and devoted himself to theatrical music with critical success, becoming such a musical celebrity that he became a target for negative articles in the press. In 1720, he adopted the composition of sacred music as his only profession until his death in Versailles in 1744 at the age of 83. The Messe de Requiem is one of Campra’s best-known works and was performed especially during the 18th century at important funerals and memorial services. Despite the serious subject, the tenor is neither bleak nor filled with pain but solemnly sublime. This CD also includes a recording of his grand motet De profundis, which by means of ever newer pictorial-musical representations, leads us step by step from grief to eternal bliss, thus demonstrating his theatrical abilities. Hans Michael Beuerle directs ensemble3 in two of the most important works of the French Baroque - music of great power and beauty.

J S BACH - ST MATTHEW PASSION         CARUS 83.285

Bach - St. Matthew PassionBach’s St Matthew Passion is an oratorio with recitatives, solo arias, and chorales - its text based on the account of the passion and death of Jesus in the Gospel of St Matthew. Interspersed with the gospel text are chorales and meditative poems. The work was performed only four times in the composer’s lifetime, and was not performed again until revived by Mendelssohn in the nineteenth century. Bach’s earlier large-scale sacred work, the St. John Passion, has a less operatic overall structure and the composer uses a less elaborate chorus than the magnificent St Matthew. Just in time for Easter, this three-CD set features a fine recording of St Matthew Passion superbly performed by Frieder Bernius, together with the prize-winning Kammerchor Stuttgart and the Barockorchester Stuttgart. Soloists include soprano Hannah Morrison, alto Sophie Harmsen, tenor Tilman Lichdi and basses Peter Harvey and Christian Immler. Their historically informed performance masters this monumental composition which portrays Christ’s passion with incomparable musical, spiritual and emotional intensity. Bernius’s recording is based on the new edition by the acknowledged Bach expert Klaus Hofmann, published by Carus-Verlag. Bach’s original score and parts were full of ambiguities and contradictions but Bernius sets new standards with respect to performance and artistry by following Hofmann’s approach, taking into account current Bach research and informed historical performance practice. This recording has also been released as a limited deluxe version (Carus 83.286) which captivates by means of a particularly opulent presentation in a comprehensive digibook as well as excellent SACD recording technology.

BRAHMS - GERMAN REQUIEM       EVIL PENGUIN RECORDS EPRC019

Brahms German RequiemA German Requiem (Ein deutsches Requiem) by Johannes Brahms is a large-scale work for chorus, orchestra and soloists. This controversial musical masterpiece has seven movements, which together last up to 80 minutes and make this the composer’s longest work. It is sacred but non-liturgical music, sung in German rather than Latin. Brahms is said to have been inspired to write the requiem by the death of his mother in 1865 as well as by that of his friend and benefactor Robert Schumann a year later. By the end of April 1865, Brahms had completed the first, second, and fourth movements. The second movement used some previously abandoned musical material written in 1854, the year of Schumann’s mental collapse and attempted suicide, and of Brahms’s move to Düsseldorf to assist Clara Schumann and her young children. Brahms completed all but what is now the fifth movement by August 1866. Johann Herbeck conducted the first three movements in Vienna in 1867 and the first performance of all six movements premieredon Good Friday in the Bremen cathedral six months later, with Brahms conducting. The performance was a great success and marked a turning point in his career. Brahms added the fifth movement in 1868 and this final version of A German Requiem was premiered in Leipzig the following year. Hervé Niquet and the Brussels Philharmonic’s authoritative performance of this unjustly neglected masterpiece has great energy, intensity and spontaneity. Featured soloists are Lore Binon (soprano) and Tassis Christoyannis (baritone).

RESPIGHI - LAUDA PER LA NATIVITA DEL SIGNORE      CARUS 83.473

respighi - laura per la nativite del signoreOttorino Respighi, one of Italy’s greatest composers, wrote captivating music yet remains something of an enigma. Best known for his orchestral music, particularly the three Roman tone poems: Fountains of Rome, Pines of Rome and Roman Festivals, he was a renowned musicologist whose interest in 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century music led him to compose pieces based on the music of these periods. For contemporary performers his music is a challenge as the continual use of assonance and allusion reflects a powerful psycho-emotional language anchored in tradition. In 1930 he composed his only sacred choral piece, Lauda per la Natività del Signore (Laud to the Nativity, with text attributed to Jacopone da Todi). This cantata for three vocal soloists, mixed chorus and chamber ensemble (woodwinds and piano 4-hands) is a song of praise to the miracle of Christmas. Majestic sounding choral passages alternate with the soloistic roles of Maria, the Angel and the shepherd, accompanied by the sound of pastoral instruments. The music is varied, containing stylistic elements ranging from the late romantic to neo baroque, as well as echoes of Gregorian chant. And towering above all is Respighi’s trademark: the art of orchestration. This beautiful, uplifting yet little known Christmas cantata is superbly performed on this recording by the Rundfunkchor Berlin and Polyphonia Ensemble Berlin, with soloists Yeree Suh (soprano), Kristine Larissa Funkhauser (mezzo-soprano), Krystian Adam (tenor). The album also includes music by Sven-David Sandstrom, Heinrich Kaminski, Francis Poulenc (Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël) and Morten Lauridsen (O Magnum Mysterium).

BACH - EASTER ORATORIO & ORATORIO FOR ASCENSION DAY   CARUS CV 83.290/00

Bach - Easter OratorioJohann Sebastian Bach’s celebration of Easter is a mostly joyous one, opening with a three-movement sinfonia, richly orchestrated, and complete with trumpets and drums: the third movement includes the chorus inviting listeners to rejoice and hasten to the tomb of Jesus, ‘For our Savior has awakened.’ There follow recitatives and arias for Mary Magdalen, Mary, the mother of James, Peter, and John. Each character goes through grief to love and gratefulness, and Bach’s endlessly inventive scoring, melodic lines, and changing orchestral textures take us on a rich, 40-minute musical journey to peace. Bach thought highly of his Easter Oratorio, even though it never attained the popularity of the Christmas Oratorio, and performed it himself four times during his lifetime. Some parts of the oratorio originated as parody movements from the birthday cantata ‘Entfliehet, verschwindet, entweichet, ihr Sorgen’ for Christian, Duke of Saxe-Weißenfels. The Osteroratorium is coupled on this CD with Bach’s Oratorio for Ascension Day, ‘Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen.’ This also goes back to another work, ‘Froher Tag, verlangte Stunde’, a no longer extant cantata composed for the inauguration of the new St. Thomas’s School. In his recording, Frieder Bernius conducts the Barockorchester Stuttgart and Kammerchor Stuttgart in fine performances of both these masterpieces. Soloists include English soprano Joanne Lunn, countertenor David Allsopp, Swedish mezzo-soprano Elisabeth Jansson, tenors Samuel Boden and Jan Kobow, German baritone Tobias Berndt and bass Gotthold Schwarz.

HEINRICH SCHUTZ - ST MATTHEW PASSION      CARUS 83.259

Schütz MatthäuspassionHeinrich Schütz (1585–1672) was one of the most important German composers before Johann Sebastian Bach. Born at Köstritz, near Gera, Saxony, he became a chorister of the Court Chapel at Cassel at the age of fourteen. In 1607 he went to Marburg University to study law but soon abandoned this to study music in Italy instead under Giovanni Gabrieli. Schütz was a prolific composer, organist and writer, described as ‘standing at the parting of the ways between Palestrina and Bach’. He combined the impressive Italian choral style with the new dramatic monodic style of Monteverdi and was the composer of the first German opera, Dafne, performed at Torgau in 1627, though the music for this has since been lost. This new CD is the eleventh volume of an ambitious Carus-Verlag Stuttgart project to include the first complete recording of the works of this important composer. Schütz’s Passions according to the evangelists Matthew, Luke and John were all commissioned by the court in Dresden: they were pure a cappella settings of high artisanal standard combined with a profound, intensely personal expressivity, these works form the conclusion of Schütz’s settings of biblical scenes. They are the mature works of old age, representing, the crowning conclusion of an entire musical epoch. The St. Matthew Passion, the last of the three passion settings, was composed in 1666. Particularly in this work the composer called for the Bible texts to be sung in an emphatic declamatory style, requiring flawless intonation and perfect comprehensibility of the words. These requirements are effortlessly met by Georg Poplutz as the Evangelist and the excellent Dresdner Kammerchor under the direction of Hans-Christoph Rademann. The other works on this excellent CD Schütz’s Litania, the psalm setting ‘In dich habe ich gehoffet, Herr’, as well as ‘O du allersüßester und liebster Herr Jesu’.

CHORAL EVENSONG FOR EASTER DAY        PRIORY PRCD 1126

Choral Evensong for Easter DayChoral Evensong from Salisbury CathedralThis Easter Day service of Choral Evensong is probably the churches’ most important day of the year. Easter Day - a triumphant expression of joy at Christ’s rising from the dead - is celebrated on this CD by John Casken’s wonderful settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. This is one of a series of choir recordings made by Priory of the outstanding Durham Cathedral Choir stretching back nearly 30 years. The Introit - a commission by Durham Cathedral - is Michael Berkeley’s sensitive setting ‘First the sun then the shadow’. Psalm 105 is sung to various chants by Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley, John Goss, Robert Cooke and Edwin Monk. Anthem is the well known setting by S S Wesley of Blessed be the God and Father. Other music here includes Voluntary: Rhapsody in D flat by Herbert Howells, The Preces by Francis Jackson, Office Hymn: A brighter dawn is breaking (melody from Selnecker’s Christliche Psalmen, Leipzig, 1587; words by Percy Dearmer), Lord’s Prayer by Francis Jackson, and the Hymn: At the Lamb’s high feast we sing (melody by Jacob Hintze, harmony by Johann Sebastian Bach). Durham Cathedral Choir is directed by James lancelot and the organist is Francesca Massey. Priory has also released CHORAL EVENSONG FOR THE 15TH EVENING (PRCD 1118), featuring the the Choir of Salisbury Cathedral, directed by David Halls, with organist John Challenger. Choral Evensong is sung daily in most of the UK cathedrals and this ancient service can combine all sorts of music for choirs to perform depending on the period in the churches calendar. The 15th evening every month is always remembered because the 78th Psalm is always sung and this the second longest of all the 150. The Choir of Salisbury Cathedral perform this as well as the Canticles and Hymns chosen for the occasion. The organ voluntary and recessional neatly round off the service.

FAURE - REQUIEM     EVIL PENGUIN RECORDS EPRC 015

Gabriel Faure RequiemOver the last 500 years, man’s mortality has inspired a genre of unsurpassed profoundness: whether conveying fear of death, hope of life after death, or just solace for those who stay behind, the Requiem is at once the rawest and most comforting musical embodiment of the fact that life on earth is finite. One of the most influential of French composers, Gabriel Fauré, wrote his Requiem in D minor between 1887 and 1890, and revised it several times before finishing the piece in 1900. Best known for its famous central soprano aria Pie Jesuit lasts, this is a choral-orchestral setting of the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead in Latin. The piece is 35 minutes long and eventually called for orchestra, organ, mixed chorus and two soloists, soprano and baritone. In 1924 the Requiem, in this full orchestral version, was performed at the composer’s own funeral and this much-loved music has been recorded many times. The sublimely beautiful Messe de Requiem can be heard in its original chamber version on this outstanding release. It bears heart-warming testimony to Fauré’s desire to write ‘a lullaby of death, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than a painful experience’. French conductor Hervé Niquet directs the Flemish radio choir and soloists of the Brussels Philharmonic.

PALESTRINA - LAMENTATIONES HIEREMAIE, LIBER TERTIUS     SONAMUSICA SONA1311

PalestrinaThe music of Giovanni da Palestrina, ‘The Prince of Music’ is unsurpassed in its spiritual perfection, but running underneath it is the turbulent story of the counter-reformation, which would have a dramatic impact on the composer’s life and music. The enigmatic composer was born in the town of Palestrina, near Rome, in about 1525 and first visited Rome in 1537, becoming a chorister at the Santa Maria Maggiore basilica and then organist of St Agapito. In 1551 he was appointed musical director of the Cappella Giulia, the choir of the chapter of canons at St Peter’s, and held similar positions at other chapels and churches in Rome before returning to the Cappella Giulia (Julian Chapel) for the rest of his life. His book of Masses was the first by a native composer and he went on to become the best-known 16th-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition. He wrote four opulent series of Lamentations on the Latin translation of the text written by Jeremia that describe momentous biblical events from the Last Supper through to Christ’s crucifixion and death. The third series is one of the most moving and employs a rich harmonic palette, constantly varying the vocal texture and using up to seven voice-parts simultaneously. Its variety of polyphony is particularly rich and the purity of some of the rhythms illustrates Palestrina at the height of his art. The expressiveness that resonates is particularly overwhelming. This third series is recorded here by Laudantes Consort, an acclaimed choir of a dozen singers conducted by their founder, Brussels-born Guy Janssens.

GORECKI - FROM CHURCH SONGS      DUX0805

Gorecki - From Church SongsThe creative path of Henryk Górecki, possibly more than any other composer, ran to the rhythm of change taking place in Poland since the Polish October of 1956 and Górecki’s debut at the Warsaw Autumn Festival the following year. Poland’s history in the latter half of the 20th century headed through a series of crises towards its climax in 1978, when a Polish Pope was elected and in 1979 and John Paul II came to Poland on his first pilgrimage. It seems that the composer’s oeuvre ran in parallel towards a similar significant moment in his greatest masterpieces with a clear religious message (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs/Psalm Beatus vir). This world premiere recording of his twenty Church Songs for unaccompanied mixed choir, mostly written in 1986, is a momentous testimony to those times. Most of the original old melodies (some dating back to the 14th century) were taken from ‘Church Songbooks’ by Rev. Jan Siedlecki. Wlodzimierz Siedlik conducts the Cracow Singers in gloriously acoustic recordings of these simple, moving and beautifully harmonised miniatures.

JUDITH BINGHAM - CHORAL MUSIC     HYPERION CDA67909

Judith BinghamJudith Bingham was born in Nottingham in 1952, entering the Royal Academy of Music in 1970 to study composition and singing. Her teachers there were Alan Bush and Eric Fenby and she later undertook further vocal studies with Eric Vietheer and composition with Hans Keller, who exerted a strong influence upon her development. After winning the BBC Young Composer Award in 1977 and graduating from the Royal Academy, she pursued her singing career (notably with The BBC Singers) as well as undertaking composition work. The latter includes Chartre for orchestra, Passagio-Bassoon Concerto, The Shooting Star (a trumpet concerto), Prague and The Stars above, the Earth below, written for brass band. She has also composed many works written for voices, including some for liturgical use, and is now one of the most sought-after contemporary British composers. On this album, Matthew Owens conducts the outstanding Wells Cathedral Choir in first recordings of a number of Bingham’s sacred choral works, which combine a modern sensibility with traditional forms. These include The Wells Service commissioned by the Cathedral, Harvest, Missa brevis, the sonorous Ave verum corpus, Jesum quaeritis Nazarenum (for solo treble and organ), the affecting Corpus Christi Carol, Christmas Past (originally written as a set of children’s piano pieces before being revised as a reflective piece for solo organ, played here by Jonathan Vaughn), Epiphany (evoking the paradox of ‘dazzling darkness’ in primal consciousness), a fresh interpretation of God be in my head in a lullaby setting, and Our faith is a light, an homage to Hildegard of Bingen with text by fourteenth century Christian mystic Julian of Norwich. The living relationship between the composer and the musicians is clear from the vivid, committed performances given by the children and gentlemen of the choir. ‘Judith Bingham possesses the enviable gift of writing music of uncompromising integrity, resourcefulness and questing spirit that both consistently ignites the imagination and engages directly with the listener.’ - Gramophone.

NICOLAI - MESSE IN D     CARUS 83.341

Nicolai Messe in DGerman composer and conductor Otto Nicolai founded of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and is best known for his operatic version of Shakespeare’s comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor, translated as Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor. As well as five operas, he composed lieder and works for orchestra, chorus, ensemble and solo instruments. A child prodigy, Nicolai was born in Königsberg, Prussia, in 1810 and received his first musical education from his father, himself a composer, but ran away from home at the age of sixteen to study in Berlin. In 1833 he was appointed organist in the chapel of the Prussian Embassy in Rome, and in 1837 was Kapellmeister and singing master in Vienna, establishing himself as a major figure in the concert life of the city. His extensive output of sacred music includes a cappella works and choral works with orchestra. As Mendelssohn’s successor as artistic director of the Berlin Cathedral, with the Mass in D major Nicolai composed a sacred work well worth discovering and an important contribution to church music of the 19th century. In addition to this festive mass with orchestral accompaniment, the excellent chamber choir CONSONO under Harald Jers also perform several other choral works which with their varied scorings, some a cappella, some with instrumental accompaniment, show the diversity of Nicolai’s sacred compositions.

MACMILLAN - TENEBRAE RESPONSORIES     HYPERION CDA67970

MacMillanCelebrated Ayrshire-born composer James MacMillan grew up in the Catholic faith and is now a Lay Dominican, so his influences include Scottish folk music and the long tradition of Catholic church music. He has written many choral works, opera and solo works, and is one of today’s best-loved choral composers. Much of his music, such as the Durham Mass, reflects spiritual and sometimes political subject matter. This recording features a dramatic setting of MacMillan’s Tenebrae Responsories, a spiritually engaging and emotionally involving work which relates back in its searing intensity and some of its choral effects to Seven Last Words from the Cross (recorded on Hyperion CDA67460), one of the composer’s seminal earlier works. The word ‘tenebrae’ means ‘darkness’ and refers to the Catholic practice of gradually extinguishing candles following readings of the Psalms in special Holy Week services. This passionate and luminous a capella music addresses the power of love and redemption through personal sacrifice. The Westminster Cathedral Choir, one of the world’s great choirs, sings superbly and is joined on this CD by London Brass for jubilant settings of Tu es Petrus (written for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Westminster Cathedral in 2010), Summae Trinitati (also written for Westminster Cathedral) and Ecce sacerdos magnus (written for the Consecration of the new Bishop of Aberdeen).

HOMILIUS - MARKUSPASSION     CARUS 83.260

MarkuspassionGerman composer, cantor, and organist Gottfried August Homilius was born in Rosenthal, Saxony, in 1714. The son of a Lutheran pastor, he studied music in Leipzig, where he was the pupil of Johann Sebastian Bach. From 1742 he was organist at the Frauenkirche in Dresden, and from 1755 until his death in 1785 he was Cantor of the Kreuzkirche in Dresden and music director at the three main churches of Dresden. His main place of work was at the Frauenkirche and he mainly composed church music, including more than 10 Passions, oratorios for Christmas and Easter, over 60 motets, 180 cantatas, chorales, preludes, and choral works, many of which enjoyed great popularity. After Homilius’s death, the lexicographer Ernst Ludwig Gerber wrote that ‘he was unarguably our greatest church composer. This new double-CD features the world premiere recording of Homilius’s St Mark Passion insightfully performed by Fritz Näf with the Basler the Madrigalisten and L’arpa festante, Monika Mauch, Ruth Sandhoff, Hans Jörg Mammel and Thomas Laske.

MACMILLAN - MISSA DUNELMI    PRIORY PRCD1078

Missa DunelmiScottish composer James MacMillan’s glorious Missa Dunelmi (Durham Mass) was commissioned in 2010 by Durham Cathedral, with support of the Friends and Durham Cathedral Choir Association, and by Durham University Department of Music. A mass setting for choir and congregation, it was written to be sung at two of the three masses celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI during his Apostolic and state visit to Britain. James MacMillan began postgraduate studies at Durham University with John Casken in 1981, receiving a PhD in composition in 1987, so he has a long association with the city. This CD includes the world premiere recording of the Missa Dunelmi, featuring James Lancelot and the outstanding Choir of Durham Cathedral. The CD also has a delightful mixture of music by Stanford, Kelly, Fleming, Darke, Allain, Simper, Franck, Wood, Berkeley, Guy de Lioncourt and Parry.

HANDEL – ISRAEL IN EGYPT      K&K 17

Israel in EgyptGeorge Frideric Handel’s choral oratorio, Israel in Egypt, was the fifth of the nineteen oratorios which he composed in England. It has a libretto compiled from selected passages in the Hebrew Bible, mainly Exodus and the Psalms, and premiered at London’s King’s Theatre in 1739. It was not well received by audiences, though later in the season Handel revived it for three additional performances, with the first third of the work removed and several arias added. Reaction remained muted and it was not until 1756 that Handel mounted another London production, adding elements of other oratorios together to create a new first part. This was still unsuccessful and the composer did not take up the work again. It’s dificult to see now why there was such contemporary coolness towards such a powerful work that in the next century would attain popularity second only to Messiah. Israel in Egypt is a colossal work comprising twenty-eight massive double choruses, linked together by a few bars of recitative, with five arias and three duets interspersed among them. Unlike Handel’s other oratorios, there is no overture or prelude to the work. The superb live recording on this double CD is part of a cycle of oratorios and masses performed in the basilica of Maulbronn Abbey with the Hanoverian Court Orchestra and Maulbronn Chamber Choir under the direction of Jürgen Budday. The series combines authentically performed works with the optimal acoustics and atmosphere of this unique monastic church – an ideal location demanding the transparency of playing and the interpretive unveiling of the rhetoric intimations of the composition. The music is exclusively performed on reconstructed historical instruments, which are tuned to the pitch customary in the composer’s lifetimes. Soloists include sopranos Miriam Allan and Sarah Wegener, the wonderful countertenor David Allsopp, tenor Benjamin Hulett and basses Steffen Balbach and Daniel Raschinsky. This is an exciting and beautiful performance of one of the greatest and most passionate works from the Baroque era. See also these K&K recordings: JOSHUA, BELSHAZZAR, SAUL and DIVINE LITURGY.

MENDELSSOHN - SACRED CHORAL WORKS   CARUS 83.020

Mendelssohn Sacred Choral WorksFelix Mendelssohn was born into a notable Jewish family - his grandfather was the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn - which later converted to Christianity. He was a musical prodigy and his early success in Germany was followed by travel throughout Europe. Mendelssohn was particularly well received in England as a composer, conductor and soloist, and his ten visits saw many of his major works premiered there. His essentially conservative musical tastes set him apart from some of his more adventurous musical contemporaries such as Liszt, Wagner and Berlioz, and the Conservatoire he founded at Leipzig became a bastion of this anti-radical outlook. Mendelssohn’s work includes symphonies, concerti, oratorios, piano and chamber music, as well as many songs, both for solo voice and for duet with piano. Mendelssohn was not dogmatic when it came to writing sacred music so his work includes Latin settings, German settings for use in Lutheran Germany, and settings suitable for use in the Anglican Church. This splendid 10-CD box set of his complete sacred choral works represents a magnificent act of interpretation and editing. All of the motets, psalms, chorale cantatas, smaller church works, plus the symphony cantata Lobgesang, are available together for the first time. These sensitive interpretations by Frieder Bernius and the excellent Kammerchor feature intelligent phrasing and a beautiful, pure blend of melodic vocal textures.

TUDOR CHURCH MUSIC FROM DURHAM CATHEDRAL    OXRECS OXCD-106

Tudor Church MusicMany of the great Tudor composers and musicians not only wrote music for the court but also for the church and the early 1500s saw the high point of the unique English liturgical style. Famous musicians such as Thomas Tallis and William Byrd (organist of the Chapel Royal) were the chief composers of Tudor church music which provided the new Protestant Church of England with a wealth of Hymns that are still played in English churches today. Following the success of OXCD-101, Organs and Voices of Tudor England, this companion CD features the Wetheringsett organ, and uses editions primarily based on Durham manuscripts. The excellent Durham Cathedral and Consort of Singers are directed by James Lancelot, with organist Keith Wright, and a comprehensive 24pp booklet discusses issues arising out of using material from the original part books and accompanied by this replica organ, which is based on design and pitch used around the time these works were composed and performed. The music is by Tomkins, Byrd, Gibbons, Batten and Weelkes. Other recent titles from OxRecs include a re-release of LET GOD ARISE (OXCD-81) with The Choir of St John’s College, Oxford, performing music from some of great British composers such as Hubert Parry, Herbert Howells, C V Stanford, John Stainer, John Ireland, S S Wesley and Gerald Finzi. It also features a rarely-heard work by Bruce Montgomery, one time organ scholar at St John’s. A VOICE FROM AFAR (OXCD-105) features The Chapel Choir of Trinity College, Oxford, in a recording of music that reflects some 600 years of worship at the College site on Broad Street, and also commemorates the death of the founder, Sir Thomas Pope.

JAMES MACMILLAN - VISITATIO SEPULCHRI & SUN-DOGS     BIS BIS-SACD-1719

Visitatio SepulchriJames MacMillan was born in Scotland in 1959 and has established himself as one of the most successful and sought-after of international composers. Many of the early works were for chamber groups and solo instruments, until Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, which was given a memorable premiere by Evelyn Glennie at the BBC Proms in 1990. His compositions also include operas, ballet, orchestral, theatre and choral music in a highly personal style that is modern yet melodic and accessible. MacMillan’s Roman Catholic faith is central to his creativity and brings an added dimension to much of his choral music, whether recapturing a mood of Medieval meditation or reaching towards a state of spiritual ecstasy or contemplative peace. Visitatio Sepulchri, written for for chorus and chamber orchestra, is a 45-minute setting of a medieval liturgical drama and describes the scene from the New Testament where three women go to visit the Holy Sepulchre on the day after Christ’s crucifixion and learn that he has risen from the dead. The a cappella Sun-Dogs has five movements, with light and dark interpretations of canine character and actions, as though asking itself repeatedly where these noble yet savage animals fit within a religious interpretation of the world. The two world première recordings on this SACD recording, both reflecting the composer’s deep Roman religious faith, are performed by the Netherlands Radio Choir and Chamber Philharmonic, conducted by James MacMillan (Visitatio) and Celso Antunes (Sun-Dogs).

ZELENKA - MISSA VOTIVA   CARUS 83.223/00

The Czech Baroque music composer Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745) is a largely forgotten genius who is now being rediscovered. Compared to the music of his contemporaries, Zelenka’s musical language is closest to that of Bach’s, especially in its richness of contrapuntal harmonies and ingenious usage of fugal themes. Zelenka’s settings of the Mass from 1739 to 1741 were composed without any official commission and represent independent works of art which are no longer bound to liturgical restrictions. During this time the extensive Missa votiva ZWV 18 was written to fulfill a vow after he had recovered from a serious illness, during which he fell almost silent as a composer. Following the great success with his recording of the Missa Dei Patris, Frieder Bernius continues his commitment to the music of Jan Dismas Zelenka with the this recording, performed by the Stuttgarter Kammerchor, the Barockorchester Stuttgart, and a superb cast of internationally renowned soloists: soprano Joanne Lunn, countertenor Daniel Taylor, tenor Johannes Kaleschke and bass Thomas E. Bauer. This is an outstanding recording of a little-known masterpiece by this ‘Bohemian Bach’ - a work that is full of passion and instantly attractive melodies. Zelenka’s visionary ‘Votive Mass’ can be compared to Bach’s B-minor Mass, Mozart’s Requiem and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, and is essential listening.

MUSICA SACRA: BUDDHIST SHOMYO & GREGORIAN CHANTS   K&K KuK 48

This release in the Maulbronn Monastery CD Edition features a dialogue of two spiritual cultures based on the musical repertoire of the Buddhist and the Christian tradition. Despite breathtaking technological breakthroughs and the related trend of rational scepticism, man still remains a religious creature. Ignoring this sphere of human personality not only leads to an impoverishment of the spiritual culture of a nation, but also to mutual estrangement of nations. And so what a wonderfully enriching experience it is then two cultures meet in mutual dialogue rather than confrontation. As a biblical quotation has it, Spiritus flatubivult - the Spirit blows wherever it pleases. These words suggest an image of the unbound ‘blowing of God’s spirit’ traversing all religious traditions. It is precisely by seeking this spirit that we can liberate ourselves from long established differences and share the common ‘message’ of religions. Many would agree that music plays an important role in such communication, crossing barriers and working as a kind of universal language. The Tendai monks and the Schola Gregoriana Pragensis ensemble have created a wonderful recording resulting from their mutual collaboration at concerts and liturgy in Prague in 2000 and on tour of Japan in 2005. These meditative encounters focus on interesting contrasts in the two musical languages and expressions, at the same time seeking common elements present in both traditions. Parallels can be found in the recitation of the sacred text or in the interpretation principle of alternating a soloist with a choir, which overlaps the boundaries of confession repertoires. Another striking feature is the tonality based on the pentatonic scale appearing both in shomyo singing and Gregorian chant. This unique collaboration has produced music of mesmerising beauty and intensity. Highly recommended.

VICTORIA - LAMENTATIONS OF JEREMIAH      GIMELL CDGIM 043

Tomás Luis de Victoria, sometimes Italianised as da Vittoria, was the most famous composer of the 16th century in Spain, and one of the most important composers of the Counter-Reformation, along with Giovanni da Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso. Sometimes known as ‘The Spanish Palestrina’, partly because he may have been taught by Palestrina, he was a scholar, mystic and priest, as well as an accomplished organist, singer and composer. His music, highly dramatic and emotional, reflects the heartfelt passion with which Victoria wrote for the church. The Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet have been set by various composers, including Thomas Tallis, the young William Byrd, Palestrina, François Couperin and Leonard Bernstein. Victoria’s settings were composed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and intended for performance on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of Easter Week. The words are taken from Old Testament verses written by Jeremiah as he witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of Judah in 586 B.C. The acclaimed Tallis Scholars, directed by Peter Phillips, sing this beautiful, moving and dramatic music with great skill - the ideal performers of work by one of the outstanding composers of the Spanish late Renaissance.

HANDEL - BROCKES PASSION    CARUS 83.428

The Brockes Passion, or ‘Der für die Sünde der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus’ is a German oratorio libretto by Barthold Heinrich Brockes, later a senator in Hamburg, first published in 1712. It went through more than thirty editions in the next fifteen years and the poetic text was set Reinhard Keiser, Telemann, Mattheson as well as several others, though the most famous setting is by George Frideric Handel. Not much is known about this early work, a passion oratorio much like J.S. Bach’s more famous St. Matthew and St. John Passions. Handel composed the work sometime in 1715-1716 and probably premiered it in Hamburg, possibly as late as 1719. The extraordinarily high reputation among Handel’s contemporaries of this work is indicated by the fact that no less eminent a musician than Johann Sebastian Bach himself made a copy of it without making substantial changes. He also frequently conducted performances of its fragments, and later used it as the model for his own St Matthew Passion. The version here is the first recording on CD of the work based on J S Bach’s copy, distinguished from the more well-known version by a different text underlay for the opening chorus. This monumental and underrated work remains largely unknown but this new recording should bring Handel’s dramatic and daring oratorio to a wider audience. Soloist include nele Gramß, Johanna Winkel, Markus Brutscher and Markus Flaig, with the Kölner Kammerchor and Collegium Cartusianum conducted by Peter Neumann.

HANDEL – JOSHUA       K&K KK07

Handel - JoshuaGeorge Frideric Handel’s Joshua was composed in a month during the summer of 1747. It was the fourth oratorio by the great composer based on a libretto by Thomas Morell, and premiered in 1748 at the Covent Garden Theatre, London. Based on the Biblical stories of Joshua, this is one of Handel’s works from the height of his late creative period. Following the Jacobite Rising in England, he produced a series of oratorios based on military themes: Occasional Oratorio, Judas Maccabaeus, Alexander Balus, Joshua and Solomon. One of Handel’s most famous choruses, ‘See the Conq’ring Hero Comes’ was originally written for Joshua, although the composer soon added it to the better-known Judas Maccabaeus, which had premiered the season before. The sources, story and style of the two works are similar, but Joshua has perhaps been more underrated and contains some wonderful music, especially in the second act with its splendid opening and closing choruses. This exemplary recording, made in 2007, is part of a cycle of old testament oratorios by G. F. Handel and is performed at Maulbronn monastery. The series combines authentically performed baroque oratorios with the optimal acoustics and atmosphere of this unique monastic church. This ideal location demands the transparency of playing and the interpretive unveiling of the rhetoric intimations of the composition, aided by historically informed performance on reconstructed historical instruments tuned to the pitch customary in the composer’s lifetime. Jürgen Budday, artistic director and founder, conducts the excellent Maulbronn Chamber Choir and Hanoverian Court Orchestra, with a fine array of soloists Miriam Allan (soprano), David Allsopp (countertenor), Mark LeBrocq (tenor) and James Rutherford (bass). See also these K&K recordings: BELSHAZZAR, SAUL and DIVINE LITURGY.

HANDEL - SAUL       WCJ DAS ALTE WERK 2564 68698-3

George Frideric Handel was born in Halle in 1685 and studied law at the University in Halle before becoming organist at the Calvinist Cathedral until moving to Hamburg to work at the opera, first as a violinist and then as harpsichordist and composer contributing to the Italian operatic repertoire of the house. He travelled to Italy and was later appointed as Kapellmeister to the Elector of Hanover, from where he was granted leave to fulfill a commission in London. His much-loved oratorio Saul, with a libretto taken from the first book of Samuel by the eccentric English country landowner Charles Jennens, was composed in the summer of 1738 and first performed on in 1739 at the King’s Theatre in London. The work was regularly revived during the Handel’s lifetime and the famous ‘Dead March’ ensured that it escaped the oblivion that overtook most of his large-scale choral compositions, with the exception of Messiah. Handel’s uplifting music is movingly performed on this double CD recording by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Concentus musicus Wien with a marvelous cast of soloists, including Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Anthony Rolfe Johnson and Paul Esswood. Das Alte Werk was inaugurated in 1958 with the release of 7” discs of Gregorian chant and music by Machaut, and quickly gained a reputation for historically informed, high-quality recordings. There followed LPs of harpsichord sonatas by Scarlatti, Concerti grossi by Handel and Partitas for unaccompanied violin by Bach. The signing up of Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Gustav Leonhardt, Frans Brüggen and Jaap Schröder ushered in a new era: the rediscovery of the authentic sound of period instruments, scholarly research into original sources and the obvious delight the label’s young artists had in their music-making combined to offer the listener exciting new musical experiences. As the field of early music spread wider and new paths were constantly broken, Das Alte Werk rapidly became the touchstone by which other labels were judged, not least for its epoch-making complete recording of Bach’s sacred cantatas. This ground-breaking label celebrates its fiftieth anniversary by reissuing Saul as well as several other fine recordings in its catalogue, including Purcell’s The Fairy Queen (2564 68698-1), Telemann’s Musique de table (2564 68704-1) and Mozart’s La finta giardinera (2564 68697-7).

PRAISE PARISIENNE       GOTHIC G-49257

Praise ParisienneThe award-winning National Lutheran Choir was founded in 1986 - its members being mostly from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area of the United States. The ensemble presents a wide range of choral works in concert and worship settings, and broadcasts and records extensively. under the direction of David Cherwien. The choir performs literature from the entire spectrum of sacred choral music, from early chant to new compositions and from simple folk anthems to complex orchestral masterworks. This selection of popular French choral music is the NLC’s first recording for Gothic. They are joined by of the world’s leading concert organists, Martin Jean, an American who teaches organ at Yale University and who first gained worldwide recognition by winning the major competitions of Chartres and NYACOP. The organ used in this recording is Casavant’s Opus 1177 at Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Mahtomedi, Minnesota. It was originally installed at Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, but after more than two decades in storage it was rebuilt by Schantz and was completed in late 2001. This huge instrument has 4 manuals, 108 ranks and 7310 pipes - eminently suitable for the Louis Vierne Mass which begins the recording. The other works here are by Maurice Duruflé, Poulenc, Messiaen, Marcel Dupré (his wonderful Four Motets), Pierre Villette and Charles-Marie Widor (Tu es Petrus and the famous Toccata from his Fifth Symphony). These are technically brilliant and spiritually uplifting performances of sublime music by a great choir. The recording quality is excellent, with Martin Jean bringing the best from the wonderfully sonorous Casavant organ.

ISLANDSMOEN - REQUIEM     2L 2L36SACD

The Norwegian composer Sigurd Islandsmoen (1881-1964) studied music under Max Reger in Leipzig, where he was introduced to the most advanced form of romantic music. A deeply religious man, Islandsmoen was for most of his life the organist at Moss church and contributed greatly to the musical life of the church and town. Several of his large scale works have religious texts, although it is perhaps surprising that he would compose a Requiem as he was a Lutheran Christian rather than a Roman Catholic. This work, composed in 1935-36, is written for soloists, choir and orchestra, and is based on the large scale oratorios of Mendelssohn and Liszt, with hints too of Fauré, Verdi and Gounoud. The beautiful opening orchestral piece, Canto Funebre, has a distinctively Norwegian melody and folk tunes are an intrinsic part of the work. Islandsmoen’s Requiem enjoyed great success in Norway and abroad during the 1940s and 50s, thanks to its beautiful and accessible musical language, then mysteriously disappeared for several decades. This exempary recording from 2L was made at Kristiansand Cathedral and features the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra and the very impressive Norwegian Soloists Choir directed by Terje Boye Hansen, with the excellent Hilde Haraldsen Sveen (soprano), Marianne Beate Kielland (alto), Ulf Oien (tenor) and Trond Halstein Moe (bass). The sound quality is magnificent and this SACD offers a rare chance to discover original and approachable music by a gifted composer.

HANDEL - MESSIAH       CARUS 83.219

George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Messiah was composed in 1741 and premiered at the Music Hall in Dublin in 1742. At the time of this composition Handel was at the peak of his musical powers but depressed and in debt, so he worked at breakneck speed, completing Messiah in only 24 days, supposedly while staying as a guest at the country house (Gopsall Hall) of the work’s librettist, Charles Jennens. It soon became one of the most popular works in Western choral literature, especially known for its ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. Handel conducted Messiah many times, often altering the music to suit the needs of the singers and orchestra available for each performance. More variations and rearrangements were added in subsequent centuries - including one by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This splendid double SACD release features Frieder Bernius with two great ensembles - the Kammerchor and the Barockorchester Stuttgart, which has an outstanding reputation for historically informed performances - as well as a select ensemble of soloists, including Carolyn Sampson, Daniel Taylor, Benjamin Hulett and Peter Harvey. Handel’s ‘sacred oratorio’ combines elements of the English anthem, Italian oratorio, and even German Passion music. This is a marvelous recording of one of the most-loved pieces of music ever written.

HANDEL - SAMSON   CARUS 83.425

Handel’s oratorio Samson was based on a libretto by Newburgh Hamilton, who based it on Milton’s Samson Agonistes, which in turn was based on the figure Samson in the Book of Judges. Handel’s Samson premiered in London in 1743 and was an immediate success. It remained popular throughout the composer’s lifetime and has been performed many times since, usually as an oratorio in concert form but occasionally staged as an opera. The story tells of Samson, the man of superhuman strength, leader of the people of Israel, who is seduced by Dalila and then reveals the secret of his strength: it lies in his long hair. Dalila cuts off his hair when he sleeps so that the Philistines can overpower him. However, with trust in God, the hero regains his strength, topples the temple and in so doing dies in their ruins. Shortly after its premiere, the politician Horace Walpole, usually not an enthusiast for Handel’s oratorios, wrote to Horace Mann, ‘Handel has set up an Oratorio against the Operas, and succeeds. He has hired all the goddesses from farces and singers of Roast Beef from between the acts at both theatres, with a man with one note in his voice, and a girl without even an one; and so they sing, and make brave hallelujahs; and the good company encore the recitative, if it happens to have any cadence like what they call a tune.’ It’s not only the impressive choruses of the Israelites and Philistines which make this one of Handel’s greatest works, the story is one of many Old Testament tales that have a dark resonance in today’s dangerous world. This three-SACD set features a thrilling performance by the Dresdner Frauenkirche with conductor Nicholas McGegan, who succeeds in conveying his enthusiasm for Handel’s Samson to all of the participants, especially the listeners. The soloists are Sophie Daneman (Dalila) Franziska Gottwald (Alto) Thomas Cooley (Samson) Michael Slattery, William Berger and Wolf Matthias Friedrich. This is an exemplary recording of one of Handel’s finest dramatic works, which many of his contemporaries valued even more highly than that better known masterpiece, Messiah.

JACKSON - SACRED CHORAL WORKS    DELPHIAN DCD34027

Gabriel Jackson was born in Bermuda in 1962. After three years as a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral he studied composition with John Lambert at the Royal College of Music, where he was awarded the R.O.Morris Prize for Composition in 1981 and 1983 and in 1981 he also won the Theodore Holland Award. His music has been performed and broadcast throughout Europe and the USA and as far afield as Kuwait and Ho Chi Minh City. A strong involvement with the visual arts has resulted in major pieces based on the work of artists Richard Long, Ian Hamilton Finlay and Robert Mapplethorpe, and more recently, concerts curated at Tate Britain and Tate St. Ives. ‘I try to write music that is clean and clear in line, texture and structure; my pieces are made of simple melodies, chords, drones and ostinatos. They are not about conflict and resolution; even when animated, they are essentially contemplative...I am religious by temperament, though not by belief, and several pieces are an attempt at a spiritual response to the great technological miracle of our time - powered flight.’ - Gabriel Jackson. This recording is the culmination of a four-year association between Jackson and the superb choir of St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, and features eight world premiere recordings. Whether gentle and meditative, brilliantly exuberant, or soaring in ecstatic contemplation, Jackson’s vividly communicative music is brought thrillingly to life by a choir at the peak of its powers. The Choir of St Mary’s Cathedral is conducted in exemplary fashion by Matthew Owens and the soloists are Susan Hamilton (soprano) and organists Michael Bonaventure and Simon Nieminski. Highly recommended.

HANDEL - MESSIAH        WARNER CLASSICS

Handel died in 1759 and as part of its contribution to this 250th anniversary Warner Classics & Jazz has released two-CD sets of five different performances of his most famous work. All are sung in English, except for the one performance of Mozart’s version. Some are more English than others, but all have something to say about this much loved music - still sung frequently by choirs throughout the UK. Raymond Leppard conducts English Chamber Orchestra and Chorus and an outstanding cast of soloists - Felicity Palmer, Ryland Davies, Helen Watts and John Shirley-Quirk (WCJ 2564 69283-5). Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducts the Stockholm Kammerkören and Concentus musicus Wien, with Elizabeth Gale, Marjana Lipovsek, Werner Hollweg and Roderick Kennedy (WCJ 2564 69282-4). Yehudi Menuhin conducts the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra and Kaunas State Chorus, with Susan Roberts, Liliana Bizineche-Eisinger, Algirdas Janutas and Benno Schollum (WCJ 2564 69282-4). Ton Koopman conducts The Sixteen and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, with Marjanne Kweksilber, James Bowman, Paul Elliott and Gregory Reinhart bass (WCJ 2564 69282-6). Michel Corboz conducts the Ensemble Vocal et Instrumental de Lausanne in the Mozart arrangement, with Audrey Michael, Magali Dami, Jard van Nes, Hans Peter Blochwitz and Marcos Fink (WCJ 2564 69296-1).

VERDI - REQUIEM AND TE DEUM       MUSIC & ARTS CD-1219(2)

Giuseppe Verdi was born in Le Roncole, near Parma, and became one of the most influential Italian composers of the 19th century. Famous for his great operas, he also wrote wonderful sacred music, including his Requiem and the Quattro Pezzi Sacri (four holy pieces), consisting of Stabat Mater, Ave Maria, Te Deum and Laudi alla Vergine Maria. His musical setting of the Roman Catholic funeral Mass, The Messa da Requiem, was first performed on 22 May 1874, when it marked the first anniversary of the death of Alessandro Manzoni, an Italian poet and novelist much admired by Verdi. The Stabat Mater and Te Deum were the last works that the composer wrote. When working on the Te Deum, Verdi studied the music of both Victoria and Purcell, though he ultimately created something all his own. This previously unissued Toscanini concert recording was made at Carnegie Hall, New York, in 1948 and features the NBC Symphony Orchestra and Collegiate Chorale (under Robert Shaw), with soloists Herva Nelli (soprano), Nan Merriman (mezzo-soprano), William McGrath (tenor) and Norman Scott (bass). Arturo Toscanini, perhaps the greatest conductor of the 20th century, trained as a cellist and played in the orchestra at the first performance of Verdi’s Otello. Later, in his conducting career, he earned a reputation as the supreme Verdi interpreter, having often met the composer and discussed his works with him. Toscanini always performed the music impeccably according to the composers’ wishes, as evidenced in this marvelous, digitally restored recording.

HANDEL - JEPHTHA     CARUS 83.422

Jephtha was George Frideric Handel’s last large work, first performed at Covent Garden in 1752, was written in London when was increasingly troubled by his gradual loss of sight. In the autograph score, at the end of the chorus ‘How dark, o Lord are thy decrees’ he wrote ‘Reached here on 13 February, 1751, unable to go on owing to weakening of the sight of my left eye.’ The libretto for this dramatic and poetic oratorio in three movements is by the Rev. Thomas Morell, based on the story of Jephtha in Judges and Jephthas sive votum - ‘Jeptha or the Vow’ (1554) by George Buchanan, and revolves around Jephtha’s rash promise to the Almighty, should he be victorious, to sacrifice the first creature he shall meet on his return: he is met by his beloved daughter Iphis. This 3-SACD box set features a gripping and splendidly atmospheric recording of Handel’s last great masterpiece made at the Frauenkirche Dresden, with the Kammerchor and the Dresden Barockorchester conducted by Matthias Grünert. The excellent soloists include tenor Markus Schäfer in the title role and soprano Miriam Meyer as Iphis, with Britta Schwarz, Patrick Van Goethem, Gotthold Schwarz and Birte Kulawik.

TAVENER - EX MARIA VIRGINE   NAXOS 8.572168

John Tavener was born in London in 1944 and showed his musical talents at an early age when he was already a proficient pianist and organist. He attended to the Royal Academy of Music, where he won several prizes for composition, and the first recordings of his work were issued by the Beatles’ Apple label. Over the years since, Tavener’s work has become more contemplative and spiritual with his commitment to the Russian Orthodox Church. This is the world premiere recording of his Ex Maria Virgine, a Christmas sequence for choir and organ performed here by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge conducted by Timothy Brown. Ex Maria Virgine was dedicated to HRH the Prince of Wales and HRH the Duchess of Cornwall in joyful celebration of their marriage. Sir John Tavener has said: ‘I have set both familiar and less well known texts, and linked them with an expanding and contracting phrase ‘Ex Maria Virgine’. This refers to Mary the Mother of God – ‘The Eternal Feminine’ – and should be sung with great radiance and femininity’. Commissioned by Timothy Brown and the choir in 2005, this sacred choral work features on the disc alongside another world premiere recording, Marienhymne, as well as five other short pieces revealing Tavener’s response to various poetic texts that also praise the Virgin Mary.

HANDEL - O PRAISE THE LORD    CARUS 83.421

This album, subtitled Psalms and Anthems, is the first of a series of Handel CDs produced by Carus to mark the anniversary of the composer's death in 2009. Nisi Dominus HWV 238 und Laudate pueri HWV 237, the two vesper psalms, were composed during Handel's educational trip to Rome in 1707. In Nisi Dominus Handel continued the tradition of the concertante polychoral motet, which was especially cultivated in Rome at that time. Due to the writing for double choir, despite its short movements, the music unfolds with a great festive majesty of sound. As in many of his works Handel employs material from previous compositions in his anthem I will magnify thee HWV 250b,  which was composed in London. Handel thought very highly of this work, for later he used parts of it in his great oratorio Belsazzar. The finely differentiated tone colors and the transparency are characteristic of the ensemble Gli Scarlattisti. These qualities make for a very special listening experience. Artists include Gli Scarlattisti and Capella Principale, drected by Jochen M. Arnold.

MANCHICOURT – MISSA CUIDEZ    HYPERION     CDA67604

The acclaimed Brabant Ensemble takes its name from the corner of northern Belgium and southern Netherlands that - as the Duchy of Brabant - hosted a remarkable flowering of compositional innovation in the generation 1520–1560. Under the supervision of their musicologist-director Dr Stephen Rice, the group’s second excursion into this repertoire explores work by the neglected Pierre de Manchicourt. He was an eminent Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance who was born in Béthune, France, and died in 1564 in Madrid, where he was serving as the first chapelmaster of the Spanish King Philip II. Little is known about the composer’s early life except that he was a choirboy at Arras Cathedral and later held a succession of posts in Arras, Tours and Tournai before going to Spain to be master of the famous Flemish chapel, where he stayed for the remainder of his life. The ‘Capilla Flamenca’ had been inherited by Philip from his father, Emperor Charles V, and consisted entirely of singers and composers from the Low Countries. Most musicians in Philip’s service concentrated on the ecclesiatical repertoire, so apart from secular chansons Manchicourt mainly wrote masses and motets based on biblical or liturgical texts, often influenced by Josquin and Gombert. Free from the dense textures and complexities which could be associated with the repertoire of this period, Manchicourt’s music combines melodic invention and great rhythmic ingenuity within a whole of refreshing accessibility. The main work on this recording made in the chapel of Merton College, Oxford, is his majestic Missa Cuidez vous que Dieu nous faille which is presented alongside the model on which it is based, a chanson of the same name by Jean Richafort. The disc also features several sacred motets (written for varying voice combinations) as well as Manchicourt’s only setting of the Magnificat.

MENDELSSOHN - ELIJAH    CARUS

Felix Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg in 1809 and began learning piano at an early age, giving his first recital at nine and beginning to compose at ten. By the time he was fifteen he had written several string symphonies, piano pieces and songs, as well as an opera. By the time Mendelssohn came to write Elias (or Elias) in 1847 he already had experience of writing Paulus (1836) as well as his Second Symphony, Lobegesang (1840), with its important vocal element. Elias became an overnight success and has remained a staple of the oratorio repertoire ever since its debut. This grand oratorio was first performed in 1846 at the Birmingham Music Festival. It depicts events in the life of the Biblical prophet Elijah, taken from the books 1 Kings and 2 Kings in the Old Testament, and was composed in homage to Bach and Handel, whose music Mendelssohn greatly loved. The work is scored for four vocal soloists (bass/baritone, tenor, alto, soprano), a full symphony orchestra (including trombones, ophicleide and an organ), and a large chorus singing usually in four, but occasionally eight or three (women only) parts. This excitingly dramatic work expresses a fervent belief in God, a belief which in the 19th century was no longer self-evident. Mendelssohn transposed the visible world of the Old Testament into numerous musical expressive possibilities in which Old Testament texts, including psalm texts and commentaries from the words of the Prophets, were shaped into biblical dramas. This double SACD features the excellent Frieder Bernius as conductor and continues Carus’s prizewinning series of Mendelssohn’s complete sacred works. The soloists are Letizia Scherrer (soprano), Renée Morloc (alto), Werner Güra (tenor) and Michael Volle (bass), with the Kammerchor Stuttgart and Klassische Philharmonie Stuttgart.

THE RESURRECTION – SIMON McENERY        PRIORY PRCD 1002

With music by Simon McEnery and a libretto by Canon Jeremy Davies, this new large-scale oratorio premiered in Salisbury Cathedral as the Churches Together event of Holy Week 2005. Simon McEnery has collaborated before with Jeremy Davies in The Way of the Cross in Salisbury in 2000; he has also written other music for Salisbury Cathedral including the full-length Pentecost, a number of anthems and two Introits. Jeremy Davies has been Precentor of Salisbury Cathedral for twenty-three years, with a distinguished reputation as a wordsmith, writing imaginative new services, preaching sermons and writing numerous hymns. The Resurrection is scored for piano, string orchestra, four soloists and choir. Structurally the piece is a mix of solos interspersed with choruses, and soloists with chorus; it also includes three completely new hymns - one with orchestral interlude - which could be extracted but appear here integrated into the musical texture. The music of The Resurrection is unashamedly populist, with moments of high drama including the bravura soprano number Recognising Moments, the moving duet Peter and Jesus, the vivid Fishermen and the grand stillness of the final movement. The text leads the listener on a thought-provoking and personal journey of exploration based on John’s gospel account via the experiences of its main characters. This recording features the four soloists who performed at the premiere - Imogen Roose (soprano), Carolyn Jackson (mezzo), Declan Kelly (tenor) and Dyfed Wyn Evans (baritone) - together with Salisbury Cathedral Choir, Sarum Orchestra, and Daniel Cook (piano), directed by David Halls, Director of Music at Salisbury Cathedral. The Resurrection is an accessible choral work filled with melody, depth and tenderness - a combination that could make it a modern classic.

BACH – ST JOHN PASSION (1725 VERSION)    REZOUND RZCD-5017-18

Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. John Passion was first performed on the afternoon of Good Friday in 1724 in Leipzig’s St Nicholas church. Unlike the St. Matthew Passion, to which Bach made very few changes, the St John Passion was subject to several major revisions. The original version from 1724 is the one most familiar to us today. In 1725, Bach replaced the opening and closing choruses and added three arias while cutting one from the original version. In the 1730s Bach revised the work again, restoring the original opening chorus and final chorale but removing the three new arias. He also excised the two interpolations from the Gospel of Matthew which appear in the work, probably due to objections by the ecclesiastical authorities. The first of these he simply removed; composing a new instrumental sinfonia in lieu of the second. He also inserted an aria to replace the still-missing Ach, Mein sinn. In 1749, he reverted more or less to the original of 1724, making only slight changes to the orchestration, most notably replacing the by-then almost obsolete violas d’amore with muted violins. The rarely heard 1725 version receives a live performance here, directed by Simon Carrington. This beautifully produced double CD features Yale University’s acclaimed early-music ensembles, the Collegium Players under the direction of early-music specialist Robert Mealy and Yale Schola Cantorum (a 24-voice chamber choir). At the time of this recording, all the principal vocal soloists were students in the Yale graduate voice program in Early Music, Oratorio, and Chamber Ensemble, and they include Derek Chester (Evangelist), Douglas Williams (Jesus), Abigail Haynes and Mellissa Hughes (sopranos), Ian L. Howell and Sylvia Aiko Rider (alto), Steven Caldicott Wilson (tenor) and Joshua Copeland (bass).

RATHGEBER – ‘MESSE VON MURI’ & CONCERTOS    AUDITE 92.559

The earliest know concerto written for clarinet was written by the very successful composer German composer, Johann Valentin Rathgeber (1682-1750). He was born in Fulda in Lower Franconia and studied theology in Würzburg, where he became a schoolmaster and an organist. In 1707 he entered the monastery at Banz as a chamber musician and was ordained there in 1711. In the same year he was appointed choirmaster, a post he held until his death. As a composer he concentrated on writing sacred music for churches which could not afford professional singers and players. His music is melodious and technically not too demanding - the main reason it became so popular throughout Germany. The tuneful ‘Muri Mass’, here released for the first time, was discovered in the library of the abbey at Einsiedeln. It was catalogued there as the anonymous ‘Muri Mass’ but was recently identified as a work by Johann Valentin Rathgeber. The present recording restores the music to its place of origin as it was recorded in the beautiful abbey church of Muri, with its outstanding acoustics and splendid baroque architecture. The original sound of the composition and the interpretation with baroque instruments meet and form a unique whole. To complement the existing instruments from the baroque era, a number of replica historical instruments were reconstructed, including the trumpet marine, a monochord string instrument ingeniously designed to sound like a trumpet, and the chordophone drum whose sound is produced by striking a single string. Solo concertos taken from Johann Valentin Rathgeber’s ‘Chelys sonora’ and recorded here as well present other historical instruments (baroque violin, baroque trumpet and baroque clarinet). The trumpet marine is also represented in a solo concerto by Rathgeber’s contemporary, Christian Gottfried Telonius. The music is performed in energetic and authentic style by the excellent Cappella Murensis and the ensemble Arcimboldo, directed by Johannes Strobl and Thilo Hirsch. The SACD sound quality is outstanding and this unique release is highly recommended.

ALTNICKOL – BEFIEHL DU DEINE WEGE      CARUS 83.168

The organist, bass singer and composer Johann Christoph Altnickol (or Altnikol) was born in 1720 in Silesia, Germany. He played violin and cello and as well as studying theology in Leipzig and was a pupil of Johann Sebastian Bach in composition and keyboard instruments. Altnickol often relied on his connection with the Bach family (he married Bach’s daughter, Elisabeth Juliana Friederica, in 1749) to obtain appointments, becoming organist at Saint Wenzel’s Church in Naumburg on J S Bach’s recommendation. Bach also praised his music, although the great composer may have not been entirely objective in his assessment of his son-in-law and copyist. Altnickol compositions have not otherwise attracted much attention and only a few survive. Aside from a few instrumental works, these consist primarily of a small number of works of sacred music, most of which are presented on this CD, and most are world premiere recordings. They include the Kyrie-Gloria-Messe in D minor. In his works Altnickol appears, in varying degrees, to be influenced by his teacher, J S Bach. This is most evident in his chorale motet, Befiehl du deine Wege. In this work Altnickol endows several verses with songlike, expressive tendencies characteristic of the gallant style. This provides a charming contrast to the high baroque, polyphonic style of the remaining verses. The Norddeutsche Figuralchor and Musica Alta Ripa, under the direction of Jörg Straube, is an extremely solid and homogenous-sounding ensemble which masterfully presents the varied facets of these works. All credit to Carus for rescuing this accomplished music from undeserved obscurity.

MENDELSSOHN – PAULUS     CARUS 83.214

Paulus was Mendelssohn’s first major choral and orchestral work. It was first performed in Düsseldorf in 1836, with an orchestra of 172 and an amateur chorus of 364. The premiere was a great success and ‘St. Paul’ became the composer’s most popular work during his lifetime. Much of the recitative is stylistically indebted to Bach and there is an even more pronounced influence shown in Mendelssohn’s use of chorales. The oratorio narrates several incidents from St. Paul’s life, opening with the martyrdom of St. Stephen and then illustrating Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus followed by some incidents from his early career as a preacher. For Mendelssohn, born a Jew and brought up a Christian, the story of St. Paul had an obvious relevance. The oratorio was intended as the beginning of a new path that would lead not only to an understanding of its text but also to a new dignity and position for the oratorio form and for music in general. On this latest CD in an award-winning series of sacred choral music by Mendelssohn, Frieder Bernius conducts the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and Kammerchor Stuttgart, with soloists Maria Cristina Kiehr (soprano), Werner Güra (tenor) and Michael Volle (bass). Bernius’s unique, definitive sound concept, together with the excellent Surround-Sound recording technique make this SACD/CD a must for all lovers of romantic choral music.

CHERUBINI – REQUIEM       TELARC CD-80658

The composer Cherubini was born Maria Luigi Carlo Zenobio Salvatore Cherubini in Florence. He began to learn music at the age of six with his father, himself a musician, and by the age of thirteen he had composed several religious works. He studied music in Bologna and Milan and briefly visited London in 1788 before settling in Paris. His exquisite C minor Requiem, full of drama and austere beauty, is a masterpiece of 19th-century choral and church music. Although famous for his operas, Cherubini did not include vocal solos in the work (nor in the D minor Requiem for male chorus composed in his later years to be performed at his own funeral). The C minor Requiem was triumphantly premiered in 1817 in a memorial concert below the abbey church of St. Denis to commemorate the anniversary of the executions of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The bodies of the long deposed monarchs had been searched for and found a few years earlier and were finally being laid to rest in the crypt of St. Denis. Though highly regarded by Beethoven and many other contemporary composers, this first of Cherubini’s two Requiems fell into obscurity by the end of the 19th century. The new recording by Martin Pearlman and the excellent Boston Baroque period-instrument ensemble gives the work a new lease on life and invites listeners to compare neglected masterpiece with the great Requiems by the composers such as Mozart, Brahms, Faure and Verdi. The album opens with another rarely heard work, Beethoven’s sublime Elegiac Song, Op. 118. Written in the summer of 1814 for a friend whose wife had died in childbirth, the simple anonymous text, sung in German, is tenderly set by the composer. An additional Cherubini work, the March funèbre (Funeral march, 1820), closes the album in dramatic fashion. ‘If I were to write a Requiem, Cherubini’s would be my only model’ - Ludwig van Beethoven.

HANDEL – TOBIT      NAXOS 8.570113-14

George Frideric Handel was a born in Halle, Germany, as Georg Friederich Händel in 1685 but lived most of his adult life in England, becoming a British citizen on in 1727. He lived at 25 Brook Street in London, where he composed his Messiah, Zadok the Priest and Fireworks Music, from 1723 until his death in 1759 (his funeral drew a crowd of three thousand mourners when he was buried in Westminster Abbey). Now commemorated by a blue plaque and home to the Handel House Museum, the building stands next to 23 Brook Street, where another blue plaque celebrates the residence of another musician, Jimi Hendrix. Handel’s music greatly influenced many of the composers who followed, including Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, and his work lead the transition from the Baroque to the Classical era. Compiled by John Christopher Smith (1712-1795) from Handel’s operas, oratorios and other works, the three-part oratorio Tobit, sometimes described as a pastiche, provided a winning synthesis of religion and entertainment at a time when newly-minted oratorios, drawing chiefly on biblical subjects were in vogue. The libretto is by Thomas Morell, who also wrote the text for Handel’s Theodora, and the story of the pious and steadfast Tobit (Tobias the elder) is taken from the apocryphal Book of Tobias, in which he is persecuted for burying the dead. Patient in adversity, Tobit is finally restored to health and prosperity, while his son, Tobias, is safely married to Sarah. Joachim Carlos Martini conducts the Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra and soloists who include sopranos Maya Boog, Linda Perillo (Sarah) and Barbara Hannigan, as well as mezzo-soprano Alison Browner (Tobias), tenor Knut Schoch (splendid in the title role) and Stephan MacLeod (bass).

SWIDER – TE DEUM   CARUS 83.176

The composer Józef Swider is a master of many forms of expression ranging from intimate lyricism, fervent avowal, devotional prayer and the solemnity of the chorale, as well as hymnic sublimity and dramatic dynamism and musical wit. He was born in Czechowice in Upper Silesia in 1930 and studied and composition at Katowice music academy then with G. Petrassi in Rome, before returning to the Kattowice college for 40 years as professor of music theory and composition. As well as being a prolific composer and teacher he has frequently served as a jury member for competitions Polish choral music. Among his extensive range of musical works are three piano concertos, three operas (including Magnus and Wit Stwosz), six oratorios, piano and organ music, film and theatre music, chamber music, and over two hundred choir works. The main work on this album is his dramatic and expressive Te Deum, written in ten short movements are for organ, percussion, soprano, baritone, and choir. On this excellent recording made at St Nikolai in Gdansk, the soloists are Katarzyna Trylnik (soprano) and Czeslaw Galka (baritone). Percussion is by Arkadiusz Skotnicki and Piotr Sutt, the organist is Julian Gembalski and the Polski Chór Kameralny is directed by Jan Lukaszewski. The other fourteen short works by Józef Swider here include his exquisite Missa minima (just four and a half minutes long), a rapturous Jubilate Deo, Czego chcesz od nas Panie (inspired by a poem by the sixteenth century writer Jan Kochanowski) and the remarkable Requiem aeternam. This beautifully recorded CD makes an ideal introduction to Swider’s accessible, refined and often romantic music.

J S BACH – MASS IN B MINOR      CARUS 83.211

This musical setting of the Latin Mass by Johann Sebastian Bach is one of the greatest and most popular musical works ever written. It was created in its present form in 1749, shortly before the composer’s death in following year, although some of the music dates back to 1724. This massive, complex and enormously influential work was never performed during Bach’s lifetime, perhaps because the huge number and quality of musicians required to perform it were not easily assembled. Rather than being a functional liturgical work, the Mass is an assemblage of movements. Bach did not give the work a name but each of the four parts is given its own title: Kyrie, Gloria, Symbolum Nicenum (otherwise known as the Credo) and Sanctus, Hosanna, Benedictus, Agnus Dei. With the four sections calling for different numbers and arrangements of performers, it is possible that Bach never expected the work to be heard in its entirety (the first large-scale performances were not staged until the middle of the 19th century). With its wealth of forms, including arias and duets as well as concertante and fugal choruses, the Mass displays the essence of Bach’s skill and personal style. The ‘greatest musical work of art of all times and all peoples’ (to quote Hans Georg Nägeli, who first edited the Mass in 1818) is also one of the most demanding choral works in the repertoire, making it a challenge to even the greatest choirs, orchestras and conductors. This fine recording by Frieder Bernius with the Kammerchor Stuttgart and the Barockorchester Stuttgart, which is admirably based on the principles of historical performance practice, brings out all the musical details and the grand scale of Bach’s awesome creation. The outstanding soloists are Mechthild Bach (soprano), Daniel Taylor (alto), Marcus Ullmann (tenor) and Raimund Nolte (baritone).

HYMNS OF LOVE, HOPE AND JOY       PRIORY PRCD 873

The Priory Singers made were founded in Belfast in 1986 under the direction of Dr Harry Grindle and quickly established themselves as one of the country’s leading chamber choirs. The singers come from across Northern Ireland with several making trips of a hundred miles to attend rehearsals. They come from all walks of life, including teachers, civil servants, lawyers, nurses and even an organ builder. The choir’s extensive repertoire includes music of all periods and their concerts frequently feature less familiar works as well as music specially written for them by local composers. They have broadcast on radio and television (BBC and RTE) and have made numerous appearances throughout Ireland, as well as undertaking summer residences at some of the great English cathedrals such as Hereford, Exeter, Lincoln, Gloucester and Bath Abbey. This latest addition to their recordings of popular hymns includes Earth has many a noble city, There is a green hill, Jesus good above all other, The eternal gates, Rejoice the Lord is King, Abide with me, As pants the hart for cooling streams, Hark the glad sound, Be thou my vision, When I survey the wondrous cross, Angel voices, Alone with none but Thee, The Lord’s my Shepherd and O God our help in ages past. Each of the 29 hymns is concluded in the last verse by a descant, often written by the choir’s director, Harry Grindle. Many of the hymns are little known and are not included in Priory’s complete edition of the New English Hymnal. This is joyful singing of a very high order, with sensitive organ accompaniment by Philip Stopford.

THE ELY TRADITION, VOL. 1      PRIORY PRCD 724

This disc is the first volume in a project to be recorded and released by Priory. The starting point for each volume is a selection of Office Hymns, considered by many to be the crowning glory of daily choral evensong. The hymns are drawn almost exclusively from ‘Hymns of Prayer and Praise’ and comprise a mixture of plainsong melodies and newer tunes deliberately conceived in a simple but matching style. For regular use in Ely, the choice of text (and tune) is governed by the following (in order of precedence): Saints days, the time of year and the day of the week. Each Office Hymn is presented with an organ accompaniment written by Dr. Arthur Wills, organist emeritus of Ely Cathedral. Each hymn is followed by an anthem connected to the sentiments of that text, providing a strong and individual backbone to what is, essentially, a choral miscellany as well as a snapshot of the choral tradition in Ely. The chosen repertoire deliberately aims to achieve a balance between more well known choral pieces, such as ‘O for the wings of a dove’, and less familiar ones associated with Ely cathedral as part of the ‘Opus Dei’. The magnificent Choir of Ely Cathedral is directed by the cathedral’s acclaimed director of music, Paul Trepte, with organ accompaniment by Jonathan Lilley.

ROSSINI -PETITE MESSE SOLENNELLE    HYPERION CDA67570

Gioacchino Rossini’s refined and elegant Petite Messe Solennelle was written in 1863, when the composer was seventy-one years old. It was first performed to a select audience assembled in the lavishly furnished salon of the Comtesse Louise Pillet-Will’s newly built town house. This glorious religious music was Rossini’s last serious work, which he referred to as the ‘last mortal sin of my old age’. The variety of movements is extraordinary, ranging from a desolate ‘Crucifixus’, ecstatic solos, sublime duets and dramatic trios, a hair-raising ‘Et resurrexit’, as powerful an ‘Agnus Dei’ as any of the era, through to two examples of the form of which Rossini was the undisputed master, the fugue. The Petite Messe Solennelle avoids the sentimental opulence of most contemporary liturgical works, such as those by Charles Gounod. Rossini specified twelve singers in all, with the soloists doubling the chorus, and scored it for two pianos and harmonium. He discreetly re-orchestrated the work later and this revised version had its first public performance in 1869, six months after the composer’s death. For this CD, Robert King has restored the ‘old master’ to its original state, stripping the Petite Messe back to its original scoring and employing ‘Parisian French’ Latin pronunciation of the period. Instead of the inflated forces to which this work has often been treated in the past, he returns it to performance with the twelve voices for which Rossini scored it in 1864, together with an accompaniment of two original pianos and a French harmonium of exactly the correct period. The soloists are Carolyn Sampson, Hilary Summers, Andrew Tortise and Andrew Foster-Williams, and the King’s Consort’s entry into mid-nineteenth century repertoire could not be more original. The Mass is one of Rossini’s finest achievements and this outstanding recording of this compelling work in its original form is highly recommended.

BACH - CANTATAS, VOL. 31         BIS  BIS-SACD-1481

In 1723, J.S. Bach was appointed to the prestigious post of Cantor and Musical Director of Thomaskirche (St Thomas’s Lutheran Church) in Leipzig, where he was required to instruct the students of the school in singing and Latin. He also had to provide weekly music at the two main churches in Leipzig, St Thomas’s and St Nicholas’s. In an amazing burst of creativity, he wrote up to five annual cantata cycles during his first six years in Leipzig (although two of them have apparently been lost). Most of these concerted works expound on the Bible readings for every Sunday and feast day in the Lutheran year. Many were written using traditional church hymns, such as Wachet auf! Ruft uns die Stimme and Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, as inspiration. In total he wrote more than 300 sacred cantatas, of which about 195 survive, varying greatly in form and instrumentation. Some are just for a solo singer, while others are single choruses or grand orchestras or only a few instruments. This latest disc in the Bach Collegium Japan’s continuing cycle features four cantatas written in 1724, three having Christmas associations. All are based on hymn texts and incorporate melodies from the Lutheran church. Masaaki Suzuki directs the BCJ in lively style and the excellent soloists include the soprano Yukari Nonoshita, Robin Blaze (counter-tenor), Gerd Türk (tenor) and Peter Kooij (bass), with the Concerto Palatino brass ensemble. The recording quality is outstandingly clear and the joyous music on this Hybrid Super Audio CD can be played back in Stereo (CD and SACD) as well as in 5.0 Surround sound (SACD).

MONTEVERDI - VESPERS    HYPERION SACDA67531/2

Claudio Monteverdi was born in Cremona, Italy in 1567 at a time when the spiritual values and traditions of Renaissance music were giving way to the more human-centred values of the Baroque age. He was a musical prodigy – his first works were published when he was 15 and he published several books of madrigals and motets before being engaged as a string player and later as choirmaster (maestro di cappell) to the court of Vincenzo Gonzaga at Mantua. During his life, which culminated in his appointment in 1613 as maestro di cappella at St Mark’s, Venice, he published many more examples of secular and religious works, including six operas, ballets, nine books of madrigals, numerous motets and masses, as well as the famous Marian Vespers. In 1610, disgruntled with his lot as choirmaster to the Duke of Mantua, Monteverdi set about compiling what was became one of the most significant choral publications in history. At its heart lies the Vespers, a amazing array of virtuosic solo movements and magisterial choruses to texts from which can be assembled music suitable for any Solemn Vespers, whatever the forces available. Many movements offer abridged versions and a complete alternative Magnificat is provided. The performance on this new recording features the complete work in all its opulent glory, with the addition of the simplified Magnificat and the Missa In illo tempore - a setting of the Mass without which no liturgical publication of the time could have been complete. As the cornerstone of The King’s Consort’s twenty-fifth anniversary concert series, the Vespers was performed to great acclaim at The Sage in Gateshead earlier this year. Robert King here leads the same jubilant forces in a magnificent performance free from transient artifice and with the confidence that can only spring ‘from the heart’. A dazzling array of soloists join King and his choir and orchestra in presenting this true masterpiece: a project made possible by the generosity of hundreds of people who donated to Hyperion’s appeal for recording funds in 2005. Available in multichannel DSD hybrid SACD as well as conventional CD, this is an exemplary recording of a monumental and immortal work of music.

JOHANN MICHAEL HAYDN - DEUTSCHE MESSE     CARUS 83.354

Johann Michael Haydn (1737-1806) was an Austrian composer, the younger brother of Joseph Haydn. He was a chorister at St Stephen's in Vienna, and shortly after leaving the choir-school he was appointed Kapellmeister at Großwardein and later, in 1762, at Salzburg. The latter office he held for forty-three years, during which time he wrote over 360 compositions for the church and much instrumental music. He was an intimate friend of Mozart, who had a high opinion of his work, and the teacher of Carl Maria von Weber. His sacred choral works are generally regarded as being his most important, but he was also a prolific composer of secular music, including forty symphonies, a number of concerti and chamber music including a string quintet in C major which was once thought to have been by his brother Joseph. The Court of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg can look back on a centuries-old musical tradition, reaching its zenith in during the second half of the 18th century through two composers with special anniversaries in 2006: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (his 250th birthday) and Johann Michael Haydn (the 200th anniversary of his death). Although the music of the younger Haydn brother was highly regarded by his contemporaries, it was largely forgotten in the 19th century and still awaits rediscovery. One of his better-known works is the central piece on this CD, the German Mass ‘Hier liegt vor deiner Majestat’, a work which is musically the epitome of south-German/Austrian Catholicism and which to this day is still a part of church music practice in this region. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is represented on this recording with some of his lesser-known works, including the 23-measure motet ‘God is our Refuge’, his first setting of a sacred text, which he composed in London at the age of nine. The CD contains two movements from Leopold Mozart’s C Major Mass, which presents the tradition of the older style of church music and was for a long time thought to have been composed by his son.

SOUNDS OF LIGHT - TRINITY CHURCH CHOIR    GOTHIC G 49245

This selection of classic choral works from the 16th to the 20th century performed by Boston’s Trinity Choir features music from Byrd (Ave verum corpus) to Tavener (As one who has slept), as well as new settings of familiar texts such as ‘This little light of mine’ and ‘God so loved the World’. Other composers include Morten Lauridsen, Colin Mawby, Franz Schubert, Arvo Pärt (The Beatitudes), Thomas Weelkes and Alan Hovhaness. Brian Jones assumed his first regular position as an organist at the age of 14 and is currently emeritus director of music and organist at Trinity Church, Boston, one of America’s great churches, where he where he has created widely acclaimed music for more than twenty years. He has also performed as an organ concert artist in many parts of the United States and England and has been a tireless advocate for organ music. In his time at Trinity Church in Boston, he has built the mostly volunteer Trinity Choir into an ensemble of national and international prominence, and founded the Parish Choir which has also been highly successful. The Trinity Choir is often heard on America’s National Public Radio as well as on the BBC, and the ensemble has toured England, with services and performances in grand venues such as Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Salisbury Cathedral and New College, Oxford. Sounds of Light features the choir in sublime form, with its formidable technique and wonderful purity of tone.

THE COMPLETE NEW ENGLISH HYMNAL, VOL 22      PRIORY PRCD 722

Recorded in the beautiful Belfast Cathedral in June of this year, the latest in Priory’s ambitious and rewarding series features the Cathedral Choir, directed by Philip Stopford, with Ian Barber (organ). St Anne’s Cathedral was consecrated in 1904 but not completed until 1981, and is a very broad and high building in the Hiberno-Romanesque style. The Choir is voluntary, consisting of up to 30 choristers and 20 layclerks. The Organ was built by Harrison & Harrison in 1907 and rebuilt by them in 1975 with four manuals and 70 speaking stops. The hymns on this new releases include When morning gilds the skies, Praise to God, O Lord of hosts, O Lord of heaven and earth, Stand up, and bless the Lord, Psalm 116: I will love the Lord, The growing limbs of God, When came in flesh, Strong Son of God, O son of God eternal Love, How bright these glorious spirits shine, Hail, harbinger of morn, O word immortal, O King enthroned on high, O let the heart beat high, Martyr of God, We pray thee, heavenly Father, Bread of the world, Ye watchers and ye holy ones, My soul there is a country, With golden splendour, Hills of the North, rejoice, The Lord reigns clothed in strength, Jesu, the very thought of thee, Praise the Lord! ye heavens adore him, and There’s a wideness in God’s mercy. Full texts are included and the performances, recorded over three days, are appropriately warm and inspirational. Other CDs just released in The Complete New English Hymnal series are Volumes 20 (featuring the Choir of Newcastle Cathedral, conducted by Scott Farrell) and 21 (in which the celebrated Choir of Christ’s College, Cambridge, is conducted by David Rowland). Some earlier releases can be seen here.

VIVALDI - THE COMPLETE SACRED MUSIC      HYPERION CDS 4417181

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was born in Venice in 1678. He became a priest in 1703 and was nicknamed Il Prete Rosso, ‘The Red Priest’, because of his red hair. Ill-health (apparently asthma) caused him to leave the priesthood to become a violin teacher at an orphanage for girls called the Pio Ospedale della Pietà. Vivaldi wrote most of his concertos, cantatas, and sacred music for them, and in 1713 became responsible for the musical activity of the institute. His talents were soon recognised beyond Venice and he was one of the composers who enabled Baroque music to evolve into an impressionist style as a precursor to the Romantic style. After many years of neglect, Vivaldi’s works were resurrected in the 20th century, thanks largely to the efforts of Alfredo Casella, and more of his music continues to be rediscovered. He composed over 500 concertos and 46 operas but his inspiring church music only came to light in the 1920s when a huge collection of his manuscripts was acquired for the National Library in Turin. Over fifty pieces have survived - the existence of many more is recorded - with most being for solo voice or voices. They include all the motets, introduzioni (a kind of motet designed to precede the setting of a Psalm or a section of the Mass), hymns and votive antiphons, besides a few of the Psalms themselves. The remaining works are either pieno (for choir only) or concertato (for choir with one or more soloists). The vitality and idiomatic quality of the instrumental writing is unrivalled in Italian sacred vocal music of the period, and this splendid box set gathers together all eleven CDs in Hyperion’s celebratory series. This features Robert King and the King’s Consort in music that includes the ‘oratorio’ Juditha Triumphans, two Glorias, Stabat Mater and Nisi Dominus.

HANDEL - BELSHAZZAR     K&K 67

Handel’s spectacular oratorio Belshazzar was composed in 1744, from a libretto by Charles Jennens that describes the fall of Babylon. Less successful in it’s day than the popular Italian opera, Belshazzar is a work on an imposing scale - dramatic, passionate, full of stirring choruses and solos, and a piece which Handel himself described as ‘very grand and uncommon’. The oratorio is full of invention, energy and drama with the Jewish, Babylonian Persian and Medes masses having their own distinctive musical styles that were juxtaposed to create a tense dramatic conflict. Composed in the same year as the splendid Hercules the two oratorios represent the peak of Handel’s dramatic writing. Belshazzar was a failure at the time of its first performance in 1745 - contemporary reports speak of a disastrously bad performance - and the oratorio never gained popularity in Handel’s lifetime. Jürgen Budday is director of church music and artistic director of the concert series at the monastery of Maulbronn, of the cantor choir and of the Maulbronn Chamber Choir. He is one of the leading German conductors of historical and modern vocal music, and his previous concert recordings have received international acclaim, including thos of the Handel oratorios Jephtha, Samson, Judas Maccabaeus and Saul Belshazzar may be one of Handel’s less performed works but is indisputably one of his finest, as is evident from this splendid recording in which the soloists include Mark Le Broque (Belshazzar), soprano Miriam Allan, countertenor Michael Chance and Patrick van Goethem.

BACH CANTATAS, VOL. 10     SOLI DEO GLORIA SDG 110

The 209 existing cantatas of J. S. Bach form an exceptional body of work that deserves to be better known. The cantatas original function and context, either as sacred or secular celebration, means that they do not fit easily into a modern concert setting, but Sir John Eliot Gardiner has captured this rich musical world in a series of wonderfully atmospheric recordings made during his Bach Pilgrimage in the year 2000. Earlier this year, Gardiner became the first Englishman to be honoured by the City of Leipzig and the Bach Archiv by being presented with the prestigious Bach Medal, awarded in recognition for lifetime achievement in the performance of music by J.S. Bach. The award followed an international tour of Bach’s monumental St Matthew Passion and the launch of Sir John Eliot’s own record label, Monteverdi Productions, which on its imprint Soli Deo Gloria is releasing all of Bach’s Cantatas. Volume 10 is a double-CD of live recordings made at Erloserkirche, Potsdam, and at Schlosskirche in Wittenberg. Disc one features three cantatas for the Nineteenth Sunday and one for the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity. Disc two has two works composed for the Feast of the Reformation, including the masterful Ein feste Burg The Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists are in magnificent form, with Joanne Lunn (soprano), William Towers (alto), James Gilchrist (tenor) and Peter Harvey (bass).

KOERPPEN - JONA, ELIA, STEPHANUS       BELLA MUSICA CTH 2506

Alfred Koerppen is a German composer, organist, writer and teacher, born in Wiesbaden in 1926. The son of a composer and conductor, he received his first musical education at the age of six and produced his first compositions soon afterwards. His music covers a wide range, including chamber works, large-scale comositions for choir, numerous solo songs, orchestral works, oratorios, operas, ballet and film music. The three compositions on this impressive new CD feature biblical figures: Old Testament prophets Jonah and Elijah, and the martyr Stephen from the Acts of the Apostles. Koerppen has set the story of Jonah to music as the Bible relates it, strictly following the text. Elijah’s concept of the deity is more modern and an ‘apothosis of silence’ occurs in the middle of the work, when the organ loses its voice and breathes its last. Stephen was the first Christian martyr, celebrated on December 26, and in his concern for the poor and aged he has set an example to Christians through the ages. The text from Acts is supplemented with quotations from other biblical passages to give greater scope to the sermon in which Stephen relates the history of Israel to his accusers. The work ends with Psalm 27, at which point the music withdraws into the background, becoming laconic and quiet. This is intelligent and reflective music, performed by the distinguished Norddeutscher Figuralchor and Johannes Brahms Choir of Hanover.

HANDEL - ORATORIO SAUL     K & K ISBN 3-930643-83-9

Georg Frideric Handel’s glorious oratorio in three movements, Saul, is splendidly performed here in English by Nancy Argenta, Laurie Reviol, Michael Chance, Mark LeBrocq, Michael Berner, Stephen Varcoe and Steffen Balbach, together with the Hannoversche Hofkapelle and Maulbronner Kammerchor, conducted by Juergen Budday. This atmospheric concert recording was made in 2002 in the historical setting of the beautiful convent church of Maulbronn. Other albums in the beautifully produced Maulbronn Edition from K & K include performances of Gounod’s Missa Solemnis (ISBN 3-930643-63-4) and an cappella concert, Goettliche Liturgie, with Don Kosaken singing works from the Russian Missa (ISBN 3-930643-72-3). For more informion, see the K & K website.

THE DIVINE LITURGY    K & K 72 ISBN 3-930643-72-3

In this recording of a Maulbronn Monastery choir concert, the Don Cossacks Soloists Wanja Hlibka sing works from the Russian Orthodox tradition by Maximowitsch (Wir verbeugen uns vor Deinem Kreuz), M. Lovorsky, Pjotr Iljitsch Tschaikowsky (In der Kirche), Alexandre Gretschaninow (Credo), Kastalsky, Fatejev, Dimitrij Bortnjanskij (Tedeum Laudamus) and the Kiev Melodies. The compositions carefully selected for the liturgically conceived Musica Sacra reveal surprising new insights into the high art of sacred Russian music and tradition. The outstanding a cappella ensemble performing here was founded in 1991 by Wanja Hlibka and George Tymczenko, who were both formerly soloists in the acclaimed Don Cossacks Choir until its disbandment in 1979. The Don Cossacks Soloists perform live and without amplification, even in such large venues as the Musikhalle in Hamburg, the Messehalle in Frankfurt or the Gewandhaus in Leipzig. The rich and emotional music of the Russian Orthodox Church is not often heard in the Western world, making this atmospheric and moving CD a wonderful addition to the beautifully produced Maulbronn Edition.

HASSE - REQUIEM/MISERERE      CARUS 83.175

The German composer Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783) was pre-destined for a career in music. His great-grandfather, grandfather, father and brother were all musicians, active in Lübeck and Bergedorf. Hasse studied in Hamburg and had his first opera, Antioco, performed.Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel in 1721. He travelled to Naples, where he studied with Porpora and A. Scarlatti, and in 1731 was appointed to the court of Poland and the electoral court of Saxony. He served as the director of the Dresden opera and composed operas, cantatas, masses, oratorios, psalms and instrumental works (sonatas, concertos, and chamber music). This new CD brings together two compositions, each dedicated to a different occasion for grieving or earnest self-examination. Written for the two ensembles of prime importance to Hasse, they demonstrate both the high quality and the stylistic breadth of this composer's work. He wrote his Miserere in D minor for the Venetian orphanage Ospedale degl’Incurabili, which through its outstanding music instruction and distinguished music directors enabled the female students to contribute to the cost of their expenses by performing concerts for paying audiences. Hasse's Requiem in E flat major is the farewell work of the mature master at the end of his tenure at Dresden, where the great Court Orchestra was of exceptional quality. Hans-Christoph Rademann, the Kammerchor Dresden and the Dresdner Barockorchester are in outstanding form on this recording.

ALLIS - GAUDE GLORIOSA      HYPERION CDA67548

July 2005 is the (probable) 500th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Tallis, who was an English organist and one of the most important composers of his time. His career spanned the reigns of four monarchs and much religious change. He started out as an organist at the Benedictine Priory before moving to London, where he composed his early Latin motets: Ave Dei Patris, Gaude Gloriosa, and Salve Intemerata. In this recording, The acclaimed Cardinall’s Musick performs Tallis’s Gaude gloriosa, a monumental and extended motet that is a sure-footed and eloquent response to an unusual text in honour of the Virgin Mary. Other works on this recording include the famous Loquebantur variis linguis and O nata lux settings, the five-voice Latin Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, and Suscipe quaeso Domine – where a particularly gloomy text (thought to have been written to mark England’s reconciliation with Rome on the accession of Mary Tudor) elicits from Tallis some extraordinary and rhetorical effects with harmonic shifts which are every bit as shocking today as they must have been at the work’s first performance in 1554. The Cardinall’s Musick and Andrew Carwood have an enviable reputation, displaying innovation and a freshness in tackling contemporary works or performing the music of the English Renaissance. Future plans for this ensemble on Hyperion include the completion of their series encompassing the complete Latin church music of William Byrd, one of Tallis’s pupils.

BERLIOZ - REQUIEM         TAHRA WEST 3001-3002

Hector Berlioz (1803-1867) was a brilliant composer as well as musician, writer and critic, excelling in all these different fields. Born in La Côte-Saint-André, a small town in the Isère department of southeastern France, he learned the flute and guitar when young. After going to Paris to study medicine, he entered the Conservatoire at the age of 22 and soon established himself as a composer of great originality. In April 1958, at the Eglise Saint-Louis des Invalides in Paris, the Berlioz Requiem was recorded under the direction of Hermann Scherchen with the Orchestre du Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris and the Choeurs de la Radiodiffusion Française. Jean Giraudeau is the tenor soloist and René Alix the chorus master.. The recording was co-produced for the American label Westminster, the French label Véga and for French Radio. The Westminster stereo version has been expertly restored from the original masters and is here made available for the first time on CD in volume 1 of a series that will also include sets dedicated to Bach, the Mozart Requiem, Beethoven, Liszt, Vivaldi, Haydn and many others. This is a fascinating recording of a work by one of the 19th century’s most inventive geniuses.

LIGHT OF THE SPIRIT       COLLEGIUM CSACD 902

This double SACD set brings together the highly acclaimed albums Illumina (runner-up 2000 Gramophone Awards) and Blessed Spirit, showcasing the celebrated Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, directed by Timothy Brown, in music from Hildegard of Bingen to Ligeti's Lux Aeterna and Tavener's Funeral Ikos. The recordings were produced by John Rutter in the wonderful acoustic of the Lady Chapel at Ely Cathedral, perfect for the singing of a cappella chant and polyphony. Each album is devoted to a different facet of spiritual revelation: Illumina explores the theme of light, Blessed Spirit is about heaven and our journey to heaven. The music ranges in date from the dawn of notation in the middle ages to Ligeti in 1966 and Tavener in 1981. Clare College, Cambridge, was founded in 1326 and music plays an important role in its life. In 1971 the previously all-male chapel choir was re-established as a mixed-voice group of some 24 voices. It has since gained an international reputation as one of the leading choral groups in Britain. The ensemble is conducted by one of Britain’s most effective choir conductors, Timothy Brown, who succeeded John Rutter as director of Clare College Choir in 1979. The superb sound on these recordings is brilliantly captured in the SACD format and the discs will also play on any standard CD player.

THE COMPLETE NEW ENGLISH HYMNAL, VOL 7     PRIORY PRCD 707.

The excellent Choir of All saints, Margaret Street, London, directed by Harry Bramma, perform more songs from the New English Hymnal. These include Come rejoicing, God is love, Saviour eternal, The prophetic anthem, Faithful Cross above all other, and O Sapienta.

THE COMPLETE NEW ENGLISH HYMNAL, VOL 8      PRIORY PRCD 708.

The Choir of Keble College, Oxford, directed by Gavin Plumley with Mark Laflin (organ), continue Priory’s best-selling series of hymns from the New English Hymnal. The accompanying notes provide comprehensive background by John Bawden along with the full texts of the hymns. These include such popular compositions as The Church’s one foundation, Once in royal David’s city, and Rock of ages, cleft for me. ‘This is a CD series easy to get addicted to’ - Netherlands Daily Newspaper.

THE COMPLETE NEW ENGLISH HYMNAL, VOL 9      PRIORY PRCD 709.

The fine Choir of The Abbey School in Tewkesbury, directed by Benjamin Nicholas with Carleton Etherington (organ), perform on the ninth of Priory’s series featuring hymns from the New English Hymnal. The hymns on this occasion include Father, we praise thee, Glory in the highest to the God of heaven!, Stand up! Stand up for Jesus!, While shepherds watched their flocks by night, Round me falls the night, A great and mighty wonder, O for a heart to praise my God and O worship the king. ‘This is a CD series easy to get addicted to’ - Netherlands Daily Newspaper.

THE COMPLETE NEW ENGLISH HYMNAL, VOL 11     PRIORY PRCD 711.

In this edition of the excellent Priory Records series, the Choir of Wakefield Cathedral is directed by Jonathan Bielby and the organist is Louise Marsh. The well-chosen hymns here include Soldiers of Christ, arise; Lift up your hearts; Children of the heavenly King; Holy Father, cheer our way; The Maker of the sun and moon; Rejoice, O land in God thy might; O King most high of earth and sky; At the Cross her station keeping; Forgive our sins as we forgive; A heavenly splendour from on high; We love the place, O God; Let us, with a gladsome mind; and Give rest, O Christ. These are fine performances of richly expressive music.

THE COMPLETE NEW ENGLISH HYMNAL, VOL 12      PRIORY PRCD 712

In this issue of an exemplary series, The Choir of St. Edmundsbury Cathedral is directed by James Thomas, with Michael Bawtree (organ). They give sensitive performances of more fine music to be found in The New English hymnal, and the 22 here tracks include Judge eternal, throned in splendour, O come, O come, Emmanuel!, Hark! the herald angels sing, Jerusalem, thou City blest, Songs of thankfulness and praise, Love's redeeming work is done, Christ the Lord is risen again!, For all the Saints, Thee we adore, O hidden Saviour, thee, Jesus, good above all other, and We have a gospel to proclaim.

JOHN STAINER - THE CRUCIFIXION     NAXOS 8.557624

Sir John Stainer (1840–1901) was organist of St Paul’s Cathedral and professor of music at Oxford. He was also a prolific composer, scoring several oratorios, various settings for church services, many anthems and over 150 hymn tunes. During Stainer’s life, his music was performed extensively throughout the Anglican communion and beyond but since his death he has largely been rembered for one work - the ever-popular Crucifixion. In 1887 the composer conceived the idea of writing music for Passion Week that was within the reach of village choirs. The librettist, W.J. Sparrow-Simpson (1859-1952), was the son of a colleague at St Paul’s, and the first performance was at St Marylebone Parish Church in London. The Crucifixion was well received and has outlived almost all church choir music of its period, becoming a great popular favourite despite the harsh judgements by some critics and historians. The qualities that have endeared it to many generations are those that Stainer had consciously cultivated as a happy medium between contrapuntal elaboration and melodramatic tone-painting. Stainer’s deeply felt Meditation can still have a telling effect in the context for which it was designed, a parish celebration of Christ’s Passion. On this recording, Timothy Brown conducts the Clare College Choir, Cambridge, with solists James Gilchrist (tenor) and Simon Bailey (bass). The organist is Stephen Farr.

MENDELSSOHN - ELIJAH    DIVINE ART ‘HISTORIC SOUND’ 27802

Felix Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg in 1809 and began learning piano at an early age, giving his first recital at nine and beginning to compose at ten. By the time he was fifteen he had written several string symphonies, piano pieces and songs, as well as an opera. He first performed his most famous oratorio, Elijah, in 1846 at the Birmingham Music Festival. This double CD features the first complete recording of that choral masterwork, made in London in 1930 for the Columbia label. It features Stanford Robinson conducting the BBC National Chorus and Orchestra, and the top class soloists include soprano Isobel Baillie, tenor Parry Jones, Australian-born baritone Harold Williams (singing the title role) and alto Clara Serena. Also featured are organist Berkeley Mason and The Wireless Singers, an ensemble that would later evolve into the BBC Singers. Although seventy-five years old, these mono recordings have been digitally remastered to reveal a thrilling performance of this great dramatic work. The release is one of the first three in Divine Art’s promising ‘Historic Sound’ series. The others so far issued are historic recordings of orchestral works by Sibelius (The LSO with Robert Kajanus, Catalogue Number 27801) and three Beethoven piano trios, played by Trio Santoliquido (Catalogue Number 27803).

HAYDN - THE CREATION    NAXOS 6.11073-74

Franz Joseph Haydn was one of two musical brothers born in 1732 in a wheelwright’s cottage in lower Austria. His long life and irreistible music were deeply influenced by the simple religious feelings and melodic folk music of the Croatian peasants who had been settled in the region for many years. Haydn went on to become ‘The Father of the Symphony’ and a pioneer of the string quartet. He was in his old age when he composed The Creation, an ambitious and poetic oratorio depicting the seven days of creation as retold in the Bible. It received its first performance to great acclaim in Vienna in 1798. For this double disc release Andreas Spering conducts the Cologne Vocal Ensemble (with Max Ciolek, choirmaster) and Capella Augustina in a performance sung in German and played on period instruments. The accomplished soloists are Jan Kobow (tenor), Hanno Muller-Brachmann (bass-baritone) and Christine Wehler (alto). The SACD format features excellent 5.1 multichannel surround sound and is compatible with standard stereo CD players.

ENGLISH CHORAL MUSIC OF THE 20TH CENTURY    NAXOS 8.501007

This splendid box set (ten CDs for the price of eight) features a wonderfully varied range of music by Lennox Berkeley, Benjamin Britten, Edward Elgar, Gerald Finzi, Herbert Howells, Kenneth Leighton, Edmund Rubbra, Charles Villiers Stanford, John Tavener and William Walton. The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge, and its acclaimed Director of Music, Christopher Robinson, give outstanding performances, especially on the Elgar disc and in compositions by Britten (Rejoice in the Lamb, A Hymn of St Columba and the Hymn to St Cecilia), Gerald Finzi and the underrated Rubbra (including his Nine Tenebrae Motets). Walton’s adventurous (and brief) Missa Brevis, written in 1966 for Coventry Cathedral, is sung with great elegance and the choir’s diction is exemplary throughout. These discs feature some of the finest Anglican Church music from the last hundred years, immaculately performed by a choir and conductor at their best.

BACH - MASS IN B MINOR     HYPERION CDD22051

This gorgeous work is considered by many to be the most perfect musical composition of all time. Bach’s deep spiritual conviction was the impulse behind all his sacred works, and his genius was to perfectly combine music and theology. Although the Mass in B Minor has long been an established part of the choral repertoire it remains a surprisingly enigmatic work - a complete Roman Catholic Mass composed by a Lutheran Protestant. Bach completed the Mass near the end of his life, between 1745 and 1750, when he was also composing such monumental works as The Musical Offering and The Art of the Fugue. Several movements of the Mass were adapted from earlier compositions and others newly composed to create music on a truly grand scale. On this 1996 recording the Tölzer Knabenchor, Choir of The King's Consort and The King’s Consort, directed by Robert King, perform with warmth and vitality, eliciting the marvellous intricacies of this challenging and profound music. the solists are Manuel Mrasek and Matthias Ritter (boy sopranos), Maximilian Fraas an Matthias Schloderer (boy altos), Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor) and Michael George (bass).

IVAN MOODY - THE AKATHISTOS HYMN     GOTHIC G 49210-2

London-born composer Ivan Moody studied composition at London University and privately with Sir John Tavener. His music is deeply influenced by the beauty of Eastern liturgical chant and has the spirituality of the Orthodox Church, to which he belongs. Major works include Canticum Canticorum I, Prayer for the Forests, and his oratorio Passion and Resurrection. Ancient Byzantine melodies and a sixth-century poetic meditation form the basis of the Akáthistos Hymn, this contemporary English-language choral setting of Orthodox liturgical music. The name Akáthistos refers to a performance of the hymn, giving thanks for Mary’s divine intervention for the raising of the siege of Constantinople. The work is performed here by the excellent Cappella Romana, a vocal chamber ensemble dedicated to exploring the musical traditions of the Christian West and East, with an emphasis on early and contemporary music. The ensemble has taken a leading role in bringing the works of European composers such as Arvo Pärt and John Tavener to US audiences, as well as promoting the work of North Americans. The soloist is the bass-baritone John Vergin. This world-premiere recording will appeal to listeners interested in chant and early music, as well as to choral music aficionados and those interested in English-language settings of Orthodox liturgies. ‘Early religious music of purity and radiance in perfect realisations’- Gramophone Magazine.

MARTIN PEERSON - LATIN MOTETS      HYPERION CDA67490

The English organist and composer Martin Peerson was born near Ely in about 1572 and became a choirboy at St Paul’s Cathedral in the 1580s. After studying at Oxford he became Master of the Boys of Canterbury Cathedral in 1613 and was later organist and choirmaster at St Paul’s as well as sacrist at Westminster Abbey. His compositions include secular songs for one or two voices and viols and virginals, as well as keyboard pieces and other works for voice and instruments with continuo. His fifteen surviving pre-Reformation Latin motets, written in an attractively simple style, are sung here (for the first in three hundred years) by the excellent Ex Cathedra Consort, which specialises in Early Music. The twelve-voice ‘soloistic’ choir, directed by Jeffrey Skidmore, has been acclaimed for its performances of a wide range of choral music from the fifteenth to twenty-first centuries, and also regularly commissions new works. The music on this beautifully produced album includes Deus omnipotens (Prima pars); Redemptor mundi (Secunda pars); Pater fili paraclete; Levavi oculos meos (Prima pars); Ecce non dormitabit (Secunda pars); Mulieres sedentes (Prima pars); Christus factus est (Secunda pars); Hora nona (Prima pars); Latus eius (Secunda pars); O rex gloriae; Quid vobis videtur; O domine Jesus Christe; Laboravi in gemitu meo; Nolite fieri sicut equus (Prima pars); Multa flagella peccatoris (Secunda pars).

BERLIOZ - REQUIEM     TELARC SACD-60627

Hector Berlioz considered the Requiem to be his most important composition. The massive work was written for a large chorus and orchestra, plus four added brass ensembles, and was first performed in Paris’s Church of St. Louis des Invalides in 1837. On that occasion the poet Alfred de Vigny described the work as ‘strange and beautiful, wild, convulsive and painful’. This exhilarating and awe-inspiring Requiem has been recorded many times but this highly recommendeded SACD by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Robert Spano, sets new standards for both recording and performance. The orchestra has won an impressive eighteen Grammy Awards in recent years and the 200-member, all-volunteer Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus has been a vital part of the Orchestra’s programming since it was founded in 1970. Also featured here is the acclaimed New York-born tenor Frank Lopardo. ‘…the sense of acoustic spaciousness and the warm clarity created by Telarc’s engineers are truly to be marveled at’ BarnesandNoble.com.

THOMAS TALLIS - MAGNIFICAT         LINN CKD 233

Tallis was one of the finest English composers of the first Elizabethan era. His spectacular motet in forty parts, Spem in alium nunquam habui, was commissioned in 1571 by Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, and Henry Fitzalan, Duke of Arundel, who owned a country house with an octagonal banquetting hall which could accomodate eight choirs, each of five voices, spread around its perimeter. In this breathtaking piece of music, the voices enter one by one and lead to a sudden, stunning entry for all eight choirs; the choirs then exchange phrases back and forth and end with a majestic 40-voice chord. On this superbly engineered SACD, the Magnificat ensemble, directed here by its founder and conductor, Philip Cave, give an inspired performance of the Spem in Alium as well as eight other Tallis masterpieces. These include a beautiful setting of the prayer Salvator mundi and a Mass for four voices. The choir was formed in 1991, taking its name from Mary’s canticle in St. Luke’s Gospel, the Magnificat: My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

MONTEVERDI - THE SACRED MUSIC, VOL. 3    HYPERION SACDA67487

Claudio Monteverdi was born at Cremona in 1567 and became one of the most inventive and influential composers of his period. Best known today for his operas, including Orpheus and his masterpiece, The Coronation of Poppaea, he also wrote a good deal of sacred music. For the last thirty years of his life (he died in 1643) he was the director of music at St Mark’s, Venice. It was there that he wrote his wonderful Gloria in excelsis Deo for seven voices as part of a ceremonial Mass to mark the end of the devastating 1630 plague outbreak in that city. The Gloria forms an exhilarating climax to this third volume of Monteverdi’s sacred music, performed by Robert King, The King’s Consort and the Choir of The King’s Consort, with soloists Carolyn Sampson, Rebecca Outram, Daniel Auchincloss, Rogers Covey-Crump, Charles Daniels, James Gilchrist, Peter Harvey and Robert Evans. Among the other pieces included are an exuberant second setting of the Dixit Dominus as well as nine motets and Psalms, including a transcendental recording of the Christe, adoramus te. MONTEVERDI SACRED MUSIC, VOL. 1 (Hyperion CDA67428) features an stunning performance of the Messa à 4 da Cappella as well as Dixit [Dominus] Primo, Confitebor Primo, Beatus vir, Laudate pueri Primo, Laudate Dominum omnes gentes, Christe redemptor omnium and Magnificat Primo. SACRED MUSIC, VOL. 2 (Hyperion CDA67438) includes the Messa à 4 voci da Cappella as well as 8 other inspirational Monteverdi works.‘This series is surely set to be the definitive representation of Monteverdi on disc’- BBC Music Magazine.

HOMILIUS - MOTETS       CARUS 83.210

Gottfried August Homilius was the greatest cantor of Dresden’s Kreuzchor, and for a time was a student of Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed music for the church and was described in 1790 as ‘one of the greatest and worthiest organists alive’. His greatest work is perhaps his St Matthew Passion, which is similar in style to Bach’s large vocal works. On these world premiere recordings, a selection of motets by Homilius can be heard and should contribute towards making the music public more aware of the works of this unjustly overlooked composer. Homilius’s style combines the expansive Thuringian-Saxon motet with the shorter, liturgical introit motet and with the sensitive cantabile style of his time. The motets based on biblical passages fall into two groups: those with and those without a basic chorale (hymn). This excellent recording by Frieder Bernius and the Kammerchor Stuttgart includes an almost equal number of motets from both groups. The chorale motets show a broad compositional array of techniques with their variety of ways to treating chorales. The more homophonic motets are characterized by interesting harmonic turns and by the tense building-up of phrases and sections which are always closely related to the meaning of the text.. The translucent beauty of the music is complemented on this CD by fine singing and the brilliant recording quality.

VERDI - REQUIEM    TELARC CD-80152

The late Robert Shaw, sometimes called ‘the Dean of American choral conductors’, died in 1999 having produced many fine recordings, eleven of which earned Grammy Awards. He became Music Director Emeritus and Conductor Laureate of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in 1988, having served as Music Director for 21 years. He built the Atlanta Symphony into a major American orchestra, gathering world-wide acclaim, and with this recording took on one of the greatest challenges in the repertoire: Verdi’s Requiem. Combining a succession of thrilling solo arias, duets and ensembles with inspired writing for chorus, the Italian master produced a unique tribute to the memory of one whom he regarded as a virtual saint: the poet and novelist Alexander Manzoni. Robert Shaw, together with the Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, succeed in balancing the devotional and the theatrical with great subtlety, taking care to involve the listener in this continually unfolding drama. The album offers superb value (two discs for the price of one) by also including interpretations of some of the best-known choruses from five of Verdi's major works: Macbeth, Don Carlo, Otello, Aida and Nabucco (Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves). ‘This choral work is thrilling...this performance beats every other studio recording of the work hands down’ - High Fidelity.

JOHN TAVENER - A PORTRAIT     NAXOS 8.558152-53

This two-disc set celebrates the 60th birthday of one of Britain's most famous living contemporary composers with a chronological survey of his work to date. The profound spirituality of John Tavener’s music has largely been inspired by his Greek Othodox faith, as demonstrated here in an excerpt from his most famous composition, The Protecting Veil. Among the other works are Song for Athene, played at the funeral of the Princess of Wales, and part of Mary of Egypt (sung by the wonderful soprano, Patricia Rozario). The 'Portrait' also features a world premiere recording of Prayer Of The Heart, a simple yet immensely moving piece written for and sung by the Icelandic pop singer Bjork with the Brodsky Quartet. ‘I'd heard her voice...it was quite a raw, primordial sound, and I was very attracted to this sound...I thought the way she sang it was quite wonderful, and it couldn't possibly be sung by anybody but her’ - John Tavener. This bargain-priced set also includes a 45-minute interview with the composer and a long, informative essay that describes his journey of musical self-discovery.

BESIDE THE WATERS OF COMFORT      PRIORY PRCD 808

When the early Christian Church adopted the Old testament it inherited the Psalms - 150 Hebrew religious poems which were sung in the temple worship at Jerusalem. The Book of Common prayer calls them ‘The Psalms of David’ and they are essentially prayer. On this recording The Priory Singers of Belfast, directed by Harry Grindle, here perform 19 of ‘The Glorious Psalms of David’ with music that embraces chants familiar and unfamiliar, including much-loved chants by E J Hopkins, Sir Joseph Barnby, ‘Trent’, James Turle, John Davy and Percy Whitlock. We are brought up to date with John Bertalot and Donald Davison, the organist on this disc, and eleven of the chants are by Dr Grindle. The one for Psalm 67 was written for a Harvest Festival Evensong at Kilbride Parish Church and those for Psalms 75 and 76 were written for Evensong at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

THE NAXOS BOOK OF CAROLS - TONUS PEREGRINUS     NAXOS 8.557330

For this inspiring new album, the composer Antony Pitts has made arrangements that refresh the tunes of well-known carols and puts them into four narrative sequences to tell the complete Christmas story. The carols, one chosen for each day in Advent, range from some of our most famous tunes to less familiar mediaeval items, as well as brand new music that includes a delightful setting of ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ by John Pitts. Naxos and Faber Music have made the sheet music for these new carols available for download through a special website (www.naxoscarols.com) and the scores of all 24 carols will be available in printed form from Faber Music. The excellent Tonus Peregrinus ensemble was founded by Antony Pitts while studying at New College, Oxford, and the group had a huge success with its début disc of Arvo Pärt's ‘Passio’, followed by recordings of early choral settings of the Mass and the Passion (Naxos 8.555861). ’...fine and practical versions of old favourites, reminders of a rich and forgotten heritage, and the brand new: a living and developing repertoire’ - Simon Halsey.

BERKELEY - SACRED CHORAL MUSIC       NAXOS 8.557277

Lennox Berkeley’s motet Crux Fidelis for tenor solo and unaccompanied choir was first performed in 1955 by Peter Pears with the Purcell Singers, and this Good Friday hymn was inspired by his personal faith and membership of the Roman Catholic Church. Performed here by the Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge, directed by Christopher Robinson, it appears as the first track of an album entirely made up of some of Berkeley’s finest sacred choral works. Other pieces include the Missa brevis (with its intense Agnus Dei), the the exultant Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, Three Latin Motets (scored for five-part voices), The Lord is my shepherd (a masterly setting of Psalm 23), the richly sonorous Mass for five voices, a tender Look up, sweet babe, and the brilliant Festival Anthem and Toccata (the last of his Three Pieces for organ). The album is a fitting tribute to the composer’s Centenary and to the distinguished Christopher Robinson’s retirement. The virtuoso organist is Jonathan Vaughan.

MOZART - REQUIEM        LINN CKD 211

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem in D minor is played on this new recording by the outstanding Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras, with soloists Susan Gritton (soprano), Catherine Wyn-Rogers (contralto), Timothy Robinson (tenor) and Peter Rose (bass). The requiem was Mozart's last, unfinished work, best known in the version by his pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayr. The version performed on this CD, completed by Robert D. Levin, seeks to address the problems of instrumentation, grammar and structure within the Süssmayr version while respecting the work’s 200-year-old history. The new version honours Mozart's spirit while allowing the listener to experience the composer’s magnificent music in the framework of its historical tradition.

PUCCINI - MESSA DI GLORIA     K & K ISBN 3-930643-75-8.

In this atmospheric concert recording from the convent church in Maulbronn in 2001, Giacomo Puccini’s Messa di Gloria is performed by Willi Stein (tenor), Thomas Pfeiffer (baritone), Kantorei Maulbronn, and members of the SWR Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden & Freiburg, ably conducted by Juergen Budday. This sumptuous CD also includes a recording of Felix Mendelssohn’s oratorio fragment, Christus.

THE CHORAL MUSIC OF HERBERT BREWER- LAUDATE    PRIORY PRCD 797

Anyone who likes the choral music of Edward Elgar will find much to enjoy on this recording of stirring music by Sir Herbert Brewer (1865-1928). The composer was a friend of Elgar as well as organist at Gloucester Cathedral from 1897, a position which entailed conductorship of the Three Choirs Festival. The works here include Let the People Praise Thee, As the Hart Pants, Blessing Glory, Wisdom and Thanks, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in B flat, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in C, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in C, O Death where is thy sting, God is our Hope and Strength, Prevent us O Lord, O Lord God, A Solemn Prayer, God within, Bow down thy ear, O Lord. Laudate is a fine young mixed choir, directed by Howard Ionascu. The organist is Joseph Nolan.

JOHN RUTTER - REQUIEM     NAXOS 8.557130

John Rutter’s Requiem (1985) was composed in memory of his father, who had died the previous year, and the music exudes an aura of consolation, drawing inspiration from Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem (1888). Rutter envisaged a contemporary Requiem Mass unlike the vast, dark orchestrations and dramatic rhythms of those by Berlioz, Verdi or Britten. His Requiem was conceived concurrently in its orchestral version and chamber arrangement, heard in this première recording performed by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, and members of the City of London Sinfonia, conducted by Timothy Brown. The impressive CD also includes two organ pieces (played by Nicholas Rimmer) as well as four other pieces of sacred music by John Rutter.

TEXEIRA: TE DEUM - THE SIXTEEN     CORO COR16009

The little-known composer António Teixeira's remarkably grand setting of the Te Deum was written for a New Year's Eve performance in 1734 in the Italian Church of his home city, Lisbon. Requiring eight soloists, five spaced choirs and a large orchestra, the lavish and ornate piece is filled with vivacity and charm, giving a rare insight into Portuguese musical life in Lisbon before the earthquake of 1755. This exhilarating recording by The Sixteen and The Symphony of Harmony and Invention is conducted by Harry Christophers. The featured soloists are Lynda Russell, Gillian Fisher, Catherine Denley, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, William Kendall, Andrew Murgatroyd, Michael George and Peter Harvey. ‘A real eye-opener that demands to be heard.’ - Gramophone.

RHEINBERGER - CHRISTUS FACTUS EST        CARUS 83.158

Josef Gabriel Rheinberger's sacred vocal music is becoming much better known but until now there have been no recordings available of some of his important church music works. This CD includes two frequently performed masses: the Missa St. Crucis and the Mass for women's choir (in a version with organ accompaniment). There are also several interesting motets by Rheinberger, including the Nine Advent Motets, the six-voice Meditabor and Christus factus est (another a world premiere). The excellent Vocalensemble Rastatt is directed by Holger Speck, and gives outstanding performances of some of Rheinberger's best-known and loved compositions.

ARVO PART - PASSIO      NAXOS 8.555860

Estonian-born German composer Arvo Pärt’s Passio - or Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem to give it its full title - was first performed in 1982 and uses for its text the Passion story told in the Gospel of St. John. Whereas Bach, for example, might take the Passion story and have the choir interpolate interpretations of the various passages Pärt uses only the pure Gospel story. This is more like the Renaissance model of having a solo quartet in the role of the Evangelist, rather than a single soloist. This composer is often at his best when working on a larger scale and this recording by the ensemble Tonus Peregrinus and Antony Pitts captures a thrilling performance of a modern masterpiece.

BACH - ST MATTHEW PASSION         DUTTON  2CDAX2005

This 3-CD box set contains excellently remastered recording of Bach’s sublime masterpiece, dating originally from 1947/8 and featuring soloists Kathleen Ferrier, Elsie Suddaby and Eric Greene, with the Bach Choir and the Jacques Orchestra conducted by Reginald Jaques. Ferrier’s magnificent voice makes Have mercy Lord unforgettable and she’s complemented by the pure tones of soprano Elsie Suddaby and the Eric Greene giving the Evangelist’s music a peculiarly piercing tone entirely appropriate to the story. The third disc also includes a fine performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater again featuring Kathleen Ferrier, this time with Joan Taylor, Roy Henderson, the Nottingham Oriana Choir and the Boyd Neel Orchestra conducted by Roy Henderson.

NATIVITE - MUSICA INTIMA     CBC MVCD 1154.

This welcome Christmas CD features festive seasonal music performed in unique style by the Vancouver - based Musica Intima. One of the things that makes this group different is that it has no conductor. Instead, the twelve singers have developed a working relationship that enables them to take direction from one another, each member contributing creatively to produces a highly expressive result. This beautiful CD includes music ranging from Franz Bieble’s Ave Maria to Hugo Distler’s Es ist ein Rose entsprungen and Steven Chatman’s O come, O come Emmanuel, as well as some brilliant arrangements by members of Musica Intima. Perfect listening for the approaching festive season.

TELEMANN - ‘JAUCHZE, JUBILIER UND SINGE’     BERLIN CLASSICS 0183512BC.

‘Exult, rejoice and sing’. This oratorio from Kapitansmusik (‘captain’s music’) has nothing nautical about it, having been written for an annual gala of the Hamburg Militia. This festal baroque music was not composed for feudal pomp and show but to be enjoyed by free citizens. A loose sequence of biblical texts was freely adapted to fit the secular civic occasion. On this recording the Choir and Orchestra of Leipzig Radio under Wolf-Dieter Hauschild give a fine performance, with leading soloists personifying the figures of Joy, Truth, Gratitude and Sadness. Singers include Ursula Reinhardt-Kiss, Rosemarie Lang, Eberhard Buchner, Siegfried Lorenz and Herman Christian Polster.

GEORGE LLOYD - REQUIEM AND PSALM 130      ALBANY TROY 450.

On this expressive and beautifully crafted CD the Exon Singers, conducted by Matthew Owens, perform George Lloyd’s moving Requiem and Psalm 130. George Lloyd's music possesses great optimism and depth of character, stemming from the powerful experiences in his life and his generous spirit, expressing a wide emotional appeal while being spontaneous, exuberant and inspired. The soloists on this recording are Stephen Wallace (counter-tenor) and Jeffrey Makinson (organ).

SERMON ON THE MOUNT - CARL RUTTI     GUILD GMCD 7238.

Full of rhythm and harmonic invention, Carl Rütti’s Three Carols have been recorded complete for the first time on this inspired CD. There are also première recordings of various other motets and carols, mostly written during the past six years and culminating in the dramatic cantata, Sermon on the Mount, with its vivid retelling of the famous story. In addition to the choral pieces, there are three elegant organ solos including a movement from Carl Rütti’s suite based on a theme from the Luzern (Lucerne?) Organ book. The Norwich-based choir Escorial are joined on this recording by the composer, expressively playing the organ of Norwich Cathedral.

PSALMS & PROPHETS - ALICIA SOLOMON     EROICA JDT 3090.

American soprano Alicia Solomon’s wide experience includes opera, oratorio and musical theater, as well as extensive sacred work, spanning three continents and over thirty years. Her pure, warm voice is heard to great effect on this inspiring collection of songs, which include the 23rd Psalm, Come to the Water, Wait on the Lord, Laudate Dominum and Rest in the Lord. Accompaniment is from her own keyboard as well as by David Ziems (guitars, banjo, mandolin), Donese Mayfield (keyboards) and Giselle Vivian (viola).

MOZART - VESPERAE ET LITANIA      CARUS 83.401.

The Vesperae et Litania occupy a unique position between Mozart’s settings of the Mass and his single- movement ‘shorter church works’. The substantial, multi-movement litanies and psalm cycles were written while he was still at Saltzburg and their composition undoubtedly allowed him greater musical freedom than his settings of the mass. In this exemplary recording, the Estonian Philharmonic Choir is directed by its artistic director and principal conductor, Tonu Kaljuste.

VIVALDI - SALMI A DUE CORI     CARUS 83.404.

The special importance of psalm settings within the church music of Antonio Vivaldi is explained by the dominant position of psalms in the Vespers liturgy and by the important role which Vespers played in the sphere of church music. ‘In due cori’ indicates a composition for two ensembles, each with its own set of soloists, choir and orchestra. The performers on this outstanding recording are the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Talinn Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Tonu Kaljuste.

BUXTEHUDE - KANTATEN     CARUS 83.134.

As the composer of much ‘Abendmusik’ (evening music), many cantatas, arias for weddings, and liturgical numbers, Dietrich Buxtehude had a large output of vocal music. Only 112 cantatas, 2 liturgical pieces and 8 wedding arias have been preserved, however, but these show that he was an individualistic personality in the history of music, linking Schutz with Bach. The cantata ‘Alles, was ihr tut’, performed on this CD, is one of his best known works. Gunter Graulich conducts the excellent Ensemble ‘76 Stuttgart and soloists include Barbara Ullrich (soprano), Bruce Abel (baritone) and Oly Pfaff (tenor).

CHRISTMAS A CAPPELLA - MUSICA SACRA     ATOLL RECORDS, NZ ACD 501.

Saint Martin, who became Bishop of Tours in 371 A.D., was chiefly remembered for his act of charity in cutting his cloak in half to clothe an almost naked beggar whom he found shivering in a severe frost at Amiens. Later on, the Saint's cloak (Latin: cappa or diminutive cappella) was preserved in a sanctuary which became the first church building to bear the name 'Cappella' or Chapel. Eventually the term came to be used to refer to church musicians, and hence the term a cappella has come to mean music 'in the church style'. It is in this tradition that Musica Sacra, admirably conducted by the Indra Hughes, perform this programme of unaccompanied choral music for Christmas. Well-known traditional favourites are joined by familiar tunes in new arrangements and some never-before recorded pieces.

THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS - CHOIR OF ORMOND COLLEGE     MOVE MD3269.

The splendid Choir Of Ormond College sings favourite carols from around the world together with newer works, accompanied by the fine Australian pianist, Stephen McIntyre or organist Rhys Boak playing the impressive Rieger organ in the Scots' Church, Melbourne. The 24 featured carols come from England, Ireland, Wales, Germany, Austria, France, Russia and Australia. They include the title track as well as Silent Night, In the Bleak Midwinter, A Child this Day is Born, Deck the Hall, In dulci jubilo, Wexford Carol (Irish trad.) and Herbert Howell's Tryste Noel. Altogether, an ideal gift for Christmas. ‘Yuletide rarities ... gloriously performed ... exquisitely evocative ... faultlessly executed ...’ Sunday Herald Sun.

TAVENER - LAMENTATIONS AND PRAISES       TELDEC 0927-41342-2.

Set to texts from the Greek and Russian Orthodox Easter service sung in English interspersed with ancient Greek words, John Tavener’s Lamentations and Praises is scored for male voices and an odd combination of strings, winds and extra-large percussion instruments, including a Byzantine monastery bell, a Tibetan temple bowl, a tam-tam and a simantron (a wooden board struck with a hammer). The music, in Tavener's characteristic medieval, monastic, Byzantine style, is devout, contemplative and very slow with endlessly sustained notes and chords, and based on structurally determined repetition. The performance on this superb recording by Chanticleer is wonderful, the voices floating with a transparent, pure, otherworldly sound.

CHRISTMAS WITH CHANTICLEER        TELDEC 8573-85555-2.

The formidable Chanticleer, joined by the delectable soprano Dawn Upshaw, perform an enchanting selection of Christmas carols from the Old World to the New. Outstanding tracks include A Christmas Round, A Lullaby/Away in a Manger, The Three Kings, Spanish Carol, Coventry carol, Beautiful Star of Bethlehem, Huron Carol and Stille Nacht. The musical director is Joseph Jennings.

MOZART - REQUIEM      CHANNEL CLASICS CCS 18198.

Jos van Veldhoven conducts the excellent choir and orchestra of The Netherlands Bach Society in this eloquent and moving performance of Mozart’s Requiem, which remained unfinished at the composer’s death. The soloists on this exemplary recording are Marie-Noëlle de Callataÿ (soprano), Annette Markert (alto), Robert Getchell (tenor) and Peter Harvey (bass).

MOZART - REQUIEM      VANGUARD CLASSICS SVC-141.

Mozart’s moving Requiem is wonderfully performed on this recording by the Amor Artis Chorale, with the assured English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Johannes Somary. The exceptional soloists are Carole Bogard (soprano), Ann Murray (mezzo-soprano), Richard Lewis (tenor) and Michael Rippon (bass). ‘Conviction and enthusiasm from singers and orchestra alike. The soloists are all top caliber’ - American Record Guide.

MARIO DAVIDOVSKY - THREE CYCLES ON BIBLICAL TEXTS     BRIDGE 9112

This disc contains premiere recordings of three expressive settings of Biblical texts by the Pulitzer Prize winning composer Mario Davidovsky . These are Shulamit's Dream (described as a ‘mini opera’ by the composer), Scenes from Shir ha-Shirim (set in Hebrew and evoking early Middle Eastern music) and Biblical Songs (the most intimate of the threecycles). Soprano Susan Narucki is the fine soloist with the Riverside Symphony, conducted by George Rothman.

BEETHOVEN - MISSA SOLEMNIS     OMEGA CLASSICS OCD 1033.

The excellent Chorus and Orchestra of the Vienna Festival, conducted by Josef Krips, give an intense and impressive performance of Beethoven’s magnificent Missa Solemnis. The outstanding soloists on this CD are Uta Graf (soprano), Grace Hoffman (contralto), Helmut Kretschmar (tenor) and Erich Wenk (bass).

KYRIE: CLASSICAL MUSIC FOR REFLECTION AND MEDITATION  NAXOS 8.556707.

The Kyrie eleison (Lord have mercy), which follows the Introit of the Mass, is a rare survival of the Greek rite in the Latin liturgy. On this inspirational CD the words are set to intense and lyrical music in 14 pieces by 11 composers, including Gabriel Faure, Haydn, J. S. Bach, J. C. Bach, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Orlando de Lassus, Jean-Nicolas Geoffroy and Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

GOUNOD/ROSSINI - MISSA SOLEMNIS/STABAT MATER  K & K ISBN 3-930643-63-4.

Charles Gounod’s first passion was for clerical music and his Messe solonelle de Sain-Cecile is one of his most beautiful works, filled with marvellous melodies. Gioacchino Rossini turned to religious music later in life and his Tabat Mater is almost opera-like with its sweeping melodies and drifting rhythms. Both pieces are wonderfully performed in this concert recording in which the glorious Maulbronn Choir, conducted by Juergen Budday, is joined by soloists Svetlana Strezeva (soprano), Jolanta Michalska-Taliaferro (mezzo soprano), Willi Stein (tenor), Nikita Storojev (bass) and members of the SWR-symphony-orchestra Baden-Baden & Freiburg.

BACH - ALTO ARIAS     LINN CKD 158.

Some of J. S. Bach’s most noble, beautiful and poignant arias are sung on this recording by the superb British alto Catherine King, accompanied by the fine Norwegian Baroque Orchestra, playing on period instruments. The collection includes Buss’ und Reu and Erbarme Dich from the St. Matthew Passion, Wo swei und drei versammlet sind and Zum reinen Wasser from the Eastertide cantatas and the Agnus Dei from the B Minor Mass. The singer’s warm tone and sensitive performances give this rapturous music a moving dignity and tenderness.

MAGNIFICAT - CHANTICLEER      TELDEC 8573-81829-2.

The award-winning a cappella male choir Chanticleer performs music written in praise of the Virgin Mary. The impressive ensemble brings eloquence the extraordinary emotional range to Gregorian Chant and music by composers such as William Cornysh, Claudio Monteverdi, Josquin Desprez, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Vasily Titóv (a singing clerk in the 17th-century Russian court) and Tomas Luis de Victoria (the brilliant ‘Regina caeli’). Uplifting and resplendent music. ‘Elegant’ - Time Magazine.

COLORS OF LOVE - CHANTICLEER       TELDEC 3984-24570-2.

Most of the compositions on Colors of Love are recent commissions by the Chanticleer ensemble and all are recorded here for the first time. Although some of the texts are old, even ancient, these modern compositions bring new sensibilities and insights to the subject of one of mankind’s most profound contemplations, love. The music is by Steven Stucky (Cradle Songs), John Tavener (Village Wedding), Bernard Rands, Zhou Long (Words of the Sun), Chen Yi, Augusta Read Thomas (The Rub of Love) and Steven Sametz (his extraordinary ‘in time of’).

VESPERS - RACHMANINOV     BERLIN CLASSICS 0017422BC.

This exultant rendition of Rachmaninov’s sacred Vespers reveals all the reverence, sensuality and beauty of the music. The excellent MDR Radio Choir is conducted by Howard Arman, and the soloists include the wonderful Polish contralto Klaudia Zeiner and the young Russian tenor Mikhail Agafonov. The fine lector is Lev Maidachevski. This is luscious yet deeply religious music.

HEINRICH SCHUTZ - SACRED WORK     BERLIN CLASSICS 0094492BC.

Born in Germany’s eastern Erzgebirge region in 1889, Rudolf Mauersberger became the 25th Kantor of the Kreuzkirche in Dresden and made it his life’s work to perform the entire surviving work of Heinrich Schutz. Martin Flamig, who succeeded Mauersberger as director of the splendid Dresden Kreuzchor, is also represented on this 10-CD collection with his interpretations of various Schutz works. These include the Psalmen Davids, the Cantiones sacrae, the Auferstehungshistorie (Resurrection Story), the Kleine geistliche, the Sacred Choral Music and the Passions.

THE GIFT OF THE MAGI      ARSIS CD 141.

This touching one act opera with music by David Conte and libretto by Nicholas Giardini is based on a short story by the American writer O. Henry. The excellent San Francisco Conservatory New Music Ensemble is conducted by Nicole Paiement and there is fine singing from the soloists: Aimee Puentes, Elena Bocharova, Tim Krol, Chad Runyon, Branden Smith, Aaron DiPiazza and Gary Sorenson. A most valuable addition to the repertoire.

TOURNEMIRE - L’ORGUE MYSTIQUE    PRIORY PRCD 669 AB.

Charles Tournemire was the organist at the Basilica of Sainte-Clotilde in Paris for more than 40 years until his death in 1939. He was also a fine composer, writing string quartets and operas as well as music for the organ. His monumental L’Orgue Mystique uses over 300 Gregorian chants adapted for Roman Catholic organists to play during Sunday masses and on other important feast days. The music shows Tournemire’s considerable imagination and understanding and is superbly performed on this two-CD set by Marie-Bernadette Dufourcet. The instruments are the organs of La Sainte Trinite, Paris, and La Baslique du Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre, Paris.

IN DULCI JUBILO       BERLIN CLASSICS 0094502BC.

This double CD features the muti-talented Ludwig Guttler as conductor, ensemble director and trumpeter extraordinaire in some of the loveliest and most moving Christmas pieces. They include works by J.S. Bach, Corelli, Michael Praetorius, Handel, William Brade (Paduane) and Vivaldi (Concerto in E).

LUCREZZIA VIZZANA - MUSICA SECRETA      LINN CKD 071.

Songs of ecstasy and devotion from a 17th century Italian convent are performed by Musica Secreta, with Catherine King. A glimpse beyond the convent wall through the motets of nun composer Lucrezia Vizzana. ‘Extraordinarily worldly, even sensual, settings, ravishingly declaimed’ - Classic FM Magazine.

CHRISTMAS AT ARMLEY      PRIORY PRCD 909.

Graham Barber plays a well chosen selection of organ music for Christmas on the Schulze Organ of St Bartholomew’s, Armley. The works include music by J S Bach (In dulci jubilo, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme), Flor Peeters (How lovely shines the morning star, The star proclaims the King is here), Max Reger (Weihnachten), Marcel Dupre (Lumen ad revelationem), Percy Whitlock (Carol: No. 1 of Four Extemporisations for Organ) and Jean Langlais (La Nativite).

CHRIST THE FAIR GLORY KOCH KIC CD 7441.

On this double CD collection the St Thomas Choir of Men & Boys of St Thomas Church of Fifth Avenue, New York City, sings music selected by The Reverend Andrew Craig Mead, the Rector of St Thomas. The organist and Master of Choristers is Gerre Hancock and the stirring hymns and psalms include Christ, the fair glory of the holy angels, In the bleak midwinter, Non nobis, Domine and De profundis.

JULIAN WACHNER - SACRED MUSIC     ARSIS CD 124.

The Boston Bach Ensemble, conducted by Julian Wachner, give sensitive performances of sacred music works. These include Alleluias, Intercessions and Remembrances, Three Songs of Isaiah (I. Surely it is God, II. Seek the Lord, III. Surge, Illuminare), At the Lighting of the Lamps (I. Inventor rutili, II. Ne nesciret homo, III. Vivax flamma viger), Arise, My Love, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis St. Thomas Fifth Avenue, All Creatures of Our God and King.

MAGNIFICAT AND NUNC DIMITTIS     PRIORY PRCD 528.

The Bristol Cathedral Choir give a fine performance of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. Music by Francis Jackson, Kenneth Leighton and Herbert Howells, among others, surrrounds some of the oldest and most revered form of music in existence today - plainsong first performed by early Christians in Byzantium. The organist on this CD is Ian Ball and the choir is directed by Christopher Brayne.

 

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