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GRAMOPHONE (10/2015)
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Harmonia Mundi

Code-barres / Barcode : 0093046761721

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Reviewer: Caroline Gill


This new anthology from that ever-improving and most elegant of mixed Oxbridge choirs, the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, treads a fine line between satisfying survey and unconvincing alibi for a compilation of lollipops.


However, all the pieces on this disc are performed with Clare’s customary accomplishment and minute attention to musical detail, with the early-20th-century English works – larger-scale standard repertoire by Bullock, Leighton and Bainton – the most successful. They are the best suited to the choir’s corporate sound: essentially enthusiastic and youthful, with a well-supported bass-line from the young singers throughout. The English repertoire is sufficiently rumbustious to absorb irregularities of blend and vowel sounds that stand out, somewhat unacceptably, in the polyphony on this disc.


For example, although the performance of Lobo’s masterpiece Versa est in luctum is particularly well crafted musically, it sounds compromised by the choir’s size: the real problem is a lack of cohesive blend between the singers in each voice part. All the polyphony on this recording suffers from in-part tuning problems to some small degree, as can be heard particularly clearly in Victoria’s O quam gloriosum and the Kyrie of the Requiem, both of which, although bringing out committed and careful performances, lack the fleetness necessary for the tight corners Ross quite rightly wants to turn with the phrasing. Ultimately, what the polyphony needs is to be performed either by a smaller ensemble or with the same commitment that can be heard in those larger, later English warhorses, where Ross brings together his choir’s strengths more effectively.

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