This 2014 Hyperion collection of 22 hymns sung by the Choir of Westminster Abbey is a straightforward presentation of familiar versions for choir and organ. For the most part, the arrangements are conventional four-part settings, with occasional interpolations of seldom-heard harmonizations and descants, and the performances by the men and boys are appropriately reverent and joyous. The majority of selections are hymns of praise, including Praise, my soul, the king of heaven; Thine be the glory; and Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, though Drop, drop slow tears; I bind unto myself today; and Let all mortal flesh keep silence bring a more somber and penitential mood to the program. The recordings were made in late 2012 and early 2013 in Westminster Abbey, so the sound of the album is typically resonant and spacious, and the choir has a well-blended tone, though the trade-off for the glorious acoustics is a loss of clarity in some of the words.
Our second October release from Westminster Abbey tells the story of the religious and political turmoil that engulfed England in the sixteenth century, and from which composers of liturgical music could find no escape. They were forced to follow the changing edicts about permitted texts as the pendulum of power oscillated between traditional and reformed religion. Interestingly, this period saw the greatest flowering of church music in England’s history; some of the most magnificent works of the age are recorded here.
Westminster Abbey has been the focus of British royal occasions for centuries, and the early seventeenth century saw the most dazzling musicians of the age writing music for the Court in all its various incarnations. This fascinating disc presents a selection of works from the reign of King James I.
Recordings of Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, are abundant, and even the pairing with the rarer Robert Schumann Violin Concerto, WoO 23, of 1853 are not as infrequent as they used to be. The thorny Schumann concerto has undergone a reevaluation upward, and plenty of players now concur with the judgment of Yehudi Menuhin: "This concerto is the historically missing link of the violin literature; it is the bridge between the Beethoven and the Brahms concertos, though leaning more towards Brahms." Violinist Carolin Widmann who (like the ECM label on which the album appears) has focused mostly on contemporary music, takes up the challenge of providing something new here, and she meets it. The central fact of the recording is that Widmann conducts the Chamber Orchestra of Europe from the violin. Others have done this before, but few have pursued the implications of the technique as far as Widmann has: the performances are unusually light and transparent, and they are perhaps thus in accord with the sounds an orchestra of the middle 19th century might have produced. Sample the unusually lively, sprightly reading of the Mendelssohn concerto's finale.
The King's Consort was founded at Cambridge University in England by Robert King, at the time a 20-year-old student. At first, the King's Consort consisted only of a small choir and band, but its concerts attracted such acclaim and positive critical notices that by 1982, King was able to establish the Consort as a full-time professional orchestral ensemble based out of London.
Jennifer Pike, who won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition at the tender age of 12, appears to have survived the perils of prodigyhood and entered her early twenties with musical intelligence intact. Here she offers a terrific program of music from the middle of the 19th century; all of it is abstract, but it brings vividly to mind the crucial trio of creative figures who met in the early 1850s: the ailing Robert Schumann, his musically frustrated wife Clara, and the young Johannes Brahms, mooning over the latter.