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Samuel S. Wesley: Anthems / Robinson, Clare College Choir


Release Date: 03/27/2007 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570318   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Samuel Sebastian Wesley
Performer:  James McVinnie
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Clare College Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 15 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



WESLEY Ascribe unto the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace. Wash me throughly. O God, whose nature. Let us lift up our heart. Blessed be the God and Father. Cast me not away from Thy presence. The Wilderness Christopher Robinson, cond; Clare College Ch, Cambridge; James McVinnie (org) NAXOS 8.570318 (75:14 Text and Translation)


Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810–1876) was the “natural son” of the elder Samuel (also a musician of no small note) and Read more held a variety of musical posts at English cathedrals, including those of Hereford, Winchester, and Gloucester. Of him the Oxford Dictionary of Music observes that he “cherished high ideals in church music in days when the general standard was low and engaged in constant warfare on behalf of his views. Many of his church compositions are in regular use and are highly admired.” No wonder, based on the evidence presented here.


The work of the Clare College Choir was praised, albeit too briefly, by this writer in a compilation of works by the contemporary composer Tarik O’Regan in the September/October 2006 issue of Fanfare ; and one need hardly listen past the first track of the present release, Ascribe unto the Lord, to be thoroughly impressed by both the range of Wesley’s style and the interpretive resources brought to bear thereon by the performers. In the former connection, the piece ranges from an appropriately hushed setting of “Let the whole earth stand in awe of Him” to a highly agitated and (for Wesley) considerably chromatic treatment of “As for the gods of the heathen, they are but idols.” The adjective “scornful” has never before occurred to this writer as a description of a passage of music; but it seems highly apropos here.


As to execution, the work of both full choir and soloists (heavily used in many of these pieces) is a model of perfect intonation, blend, and text declamation. The same virtues remain in consistent evidence throughout the program, notably in the exuberant polyphonic penultimate movement of The Wilderness, which demonstrates how much benefit Wesley derived from his study of J. S. Bach.


The recording acoustic is pleasantly forward and transparent without being microscopic. Special praise is due to organist McVinnie for his supportive but discreet accompaniments, and to the Naxos engineers for the exemplary balance between organ and voices. Excellent program notes by the eminent church-music scholar Nicholas Temperley, than whom no better choice can be imagined for this assignment.


A quick check of a number of alternate performances of Thou wilt keep him, the most popular and most-recorded selection on this program, reveals that those performances are, without exception, included in multi-composer compilations. Ergo, while I can’t swear that the present disc is the only all-Wesley collection on the market, the evidence does suggest that such compilations are at best few and far between. Moreover, two of the selections appear to be only-available recordings: Our God, whose nature and Let us lift up our heart— the latter really a small-scale cantata, at 18 minutes plus. For lovers of 19th-century English church music, this release is not to be missed.


FANFARE: James Carson
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Works on This Recording

1.
Ascribe unto the Lord by Samuel Sebastian Wesley
Performer:  James McVinnie (Organ)
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Clare College Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1852; England 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England 
Length: 12 Minutes 57 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England (07/01/2006 - 07/02/2006) 
2.
O give thanks unto the Lord by Samuel Sebastian Wesley
Performer:  James McVinnie (Organ)
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Clare College Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 19th Century; England 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England 
Length: 8 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England (07/01/2006 - 07/02/2006) 
3.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace by Samuel Sebastian Wesley
Performer:  James McVinnie (Organ)
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Clare College Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1850; England 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England (07/01/2006 - 07/02/2006) 
4.
Wash me throughly from my wickedness by Samuel Sebastian Wesley
Performer:  James McVinnie (Organ)
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Clare College Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: England 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England (07/01/2006 - 07/02/2006) 
5.
O God, whose nature and property by Samuel Sebastian Wesley
Performer:  James McVinnie (Organ)
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Clare College Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 19th Century; England 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England 
Length: 3 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England (07/01/2006 - 07/02/2006) 
6.
Let us lift up our heart with our hands by Samuel Sebastian Wesley
Performer:  James McVinnie (Organ)
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Clare College Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 19th Century; England 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England 
Length: 18 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England (07/01/2006 - 07/02/2006) 
7.
Blessed be the God and Father by Samuel Sebastian Wesley
Performer:  James McVinnie (Organ)
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Clare College Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1833-1835; England 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England 
Length: 7 Minutes 5 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England (07/01/2006 - 07/02/2006) 
8.
Cast me not away from Thy presence by Samuel Sebastian Wesley
Performer:  James McVinnie (Organ)
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Clare College Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 19th Century; England 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 28 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England (07/01/2006 - 07/02/2006) 
9.
The wilderness and the solitary place by Samuel Sebastian Wesley
Performer:  James McVinnie (Organ)
Conductor:  Christopher Robinson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Clare College Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: England 
Venue:  St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England 
Length: 12 Minutes 22 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: St. Michael's Church, Tenbury, England (07/01/2006 - 07/02/2006)
Composition written: England (1832 - 1852). 

Sound Samples

Ascribe unto the Lord
O give thanks unto the Lord
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace
Wash me throughly
O God, whose nature
Let us lift up our heart: I.
Let us lift up our heart: II. Be not very sore, O Lord
Let us lift up our heart: III. Thou, O Lord God
Let us lift up our heart: IV. Thou Judge of quick and dead
Let us lift up our heart: V. O may we thus insure
Blessed be the God and Father
Cast me not away from thy presence: Cast me not away
The wilderness and the solitary place: I.
The wilderness and the solitary place: II. Say to them of a fearful heart
The wilderness and the solitary place: III. Then shall the lame man
The wilderness and the solitary place: IV. And the ransomed of the Lord
The wilderness and the solitary place: V. And sorrow and sighing

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