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In The Beginning / Nethsingha, Gloucester Cathedral Choir

Release Date: 11/08/2005 
Label:  Avie   Catalog #: 2072   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Benjamin BrittenIldebrando PizzettiGerald FinziAaron Copland
Performer:  Robert HoussartJames GilchristJeremy KenyonJonathan Hyde,   ... 
Conductor:  Andrew Nethsingha
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gloucester Cathedral Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

FINZI Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice , op. 26 . 1 BRITTEN Rejoice in the Lamb , op. 30 . 2 PIZZETTI 3 composizioni corale . COPLAND In the Beginning 3 Read more class="BULLET12b">? Andrew Nethsingha, cond; Jonathan Hyde (trb); 1,2 Frances Bourne (mez); 3 Jeremy Kenyon (alt); 1 James Gilchrist (ten); 1,2 Allan Smith (bs); 1 James Birchall (bs); 2 Gloucester Cathedral Ch ? AVIE 2072 (70:39 & )

A clever concert, this, one featuring choral works created during the 1940s. There is an understandable sense of longing in three of these works for less trying times, and a feeling of gathered strength in all four for what was to come. Outside this evidence of shared humanity, there are four distinct musical personalities at work.

Probably the best-known work of the group is Finzi?s Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice . It was commissioned by the Rev. Walter Hussey in 1946 as an anniversary anthem for St Matthew?s, Northampton, with a text (hopefully) to be based on the Eucharist. The choice of Finzi was interesting, for the composer was an agnostic with a Jewish upbringing; but the breadth of his learning and spirit was large, and he found the text he sought in translations by the 17th-century poet Crashaw of two poems by Thomas Aquinas. The result is a work of lyrical scope such as one might expect of Finzi, but of great dramatic grasp, as well.

Britten?s Rejoice in the Lamb was another Hussey commission, this time, in 1943. The composer chose to set sections of Jubilato agno , a lengthy free-verse work by the 18th-century editor and poet Christopher Smart. (They were written in a madhouse, where Smart was confined for religious mania?falling to pray on his knees in the street, among other places, according to Samuel Johnson. Only fragments of the poem survive.) If the text changes mood and form in manic shifts, Britten catches each mood brilliantly, and highlights the common thread of a sadly over-stretched mind burnt to madness in the full light of its god.

Pizzetti?s Tre composizioni corale dates from 1942/3. The first of the three poems he sets (by d?Annunzio, who was also a personal friend) is an idyllic description of the countryside surrounding Assisi. The other two are biblical in origin: some hectoring verses from Isaiah, and a desperate, moving plea from Lamentations. The style is Pizzetti?s mature and distinctive mix of Renaissance polyphony, modal harmony, and austere Italianate melody.

In 1947, Copland received a commission from Harvard University for a large, a capella choral work; and it was Britten who encouraged his setting of the first chapter of Genesis, and seven verses from the second chapter. It is not in Copland?s public, oracular manner, but it partakes of elements from that style: the open harmonies, the occasionally syncopated rhythms, and the broad, intervallic trumpet leaps, now given to soloists. Despite all this, the work retains a rapt and personal quality more often associated with the private Copland, though I think it rambles long before its conclusion.

The Gloucester Cathedral Choir has been directed by Andrew Nethsingha since 2002. Most of its previous recordings that I?ve heard were on the Priory Records label, where they acquitted themselves variably, but in the main well. This recording is among their best, with excellent unity, control of dynamics, and especially fine sectional blending. The soloists are all effective, with James Gilchrist turning in the finest performance. However, text enunciation is difficult to evaluate given the reverberant acoustic and distant miking used in Gloucester Cathedral, and there are moments (the long pedal point in the middle of ?For I am under the same accusation,? for one) when the organ is too loud in comparison to the choir. My own tastes incline towards Cleobury/Cambridge King?s College Choir (Eloquence 467612) in the Britten, and Spicer/Finzi Singers (Chandos 8936) in the Finzi: the former for its clarity, the latter for its intimacy. But neither is an overwhelming preference, and I admit that some listeners might prefer the sound on this album to the slightly closer and dryer acoustic that I enjoy in choral music.

With good liner notes, texts and translations to all four works, this is definitely an attractive release.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

Rejoice in the Lamb, Op. 30 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Robert Houssart (Organ), James Gilchrist (Tenor), Jeremy Kenyon (Treble),
Jonathan Hyde (Treble), Allan Smith (Bass)
Conductor:  Andrew Nethsingha
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gloucester Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; England 
Composizioni (3) corali by Ildebrando Pizzetti
Performer:  Robert Houssart (Organ)
Conductor:  Andrew Nethsingha
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gloucester Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942-1943; Italy 
Lo, the full, final sacrifice, Op. 26 by Gerald Finzi
Performer:  Jonathan Hyde (Treble), Robert Houssart (), James Gilchrist (Tenor),
James Birchall (Bass)
Conductor:  Andrew Nethsingha
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gloucester Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946/1947; England 
In the Beginning by Aaron Copland
Performer:  Frances Bourne (Mezzo Soprano), Robert Houssart (Organ)
Conductor:  Andrew Nethsingha
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gloucester Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947; USA 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 The choir was amazing October 20, 2015 By louise t. See All My Reviews "This was a memory lane purchase. I had performed In The Beginning lifetimes ago while working on my bachelors degree in music. The bar was pretty high because my choir director at that time was brilliant but the singers were all underclassmen so the maturity of voices was developing. The Gloucester Cathedral Choir in this recording is balanced, tuned, and the timbre perfect. The sopranos are lofty, never shrill, and always right in the middle of the pitch. Male altos have never been my favorite but these singers have modified my opinion. And the tenors and basses are spot on. Andrew Nethsingma does a masterful job with the range of dynamics and tempos. He interprets the text perfectly. However the reason for 4 stars and not 5 is the soprano. She sounds inexperienced, her vibrato is inconsistent, and timbre not always pleasing. She does seem to warm into the role but never quite reaches the place that this beautiful piece deserves." Report Abuse
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