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The English Rachmaninov - Rachmaninov, Vale, Arnold


Release Date: 08/22/2006 
Label:  Priory Records   Catalog #: 860   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Sergei RachmaninovWalter ValeEric Arnold
Conductor:  Paul Brough
Orchestra/Ensemble:  All Saints Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 9 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Finding Rachmaninov’s inner Englishman; Russia by way of London.

In October 1924 Rachmaninov, on tour in Britain, went to the church of All Saints, Margaret Street, in central London to hear what was described as his Mass in B flat. What the Director of Music, Dr Walter Vale, had done some years earlier was take five of the movements from Rachmaninov’s great 18-movement Liturgy of St Chrysostom and fit to them the words of the Mass in the translation prescribed by Cranmer in the Church of England Prayer Book – Gloria, Credo, Sanctus/Benedictus and Agnus Dei, leaving the opening Kyrie in Greek. Since then this English Mass has regularly been used in worship at this high-Anglican Church.

Much more recently
Read more Vale’s successor, Eric Arnold, has followed up that example by similarly adapting Rachmaninov choral pieces and fitting English words to them, using other movements not only from the Liturgy but also from the Vespers or All-Night Vigil with which in 1915 Rachmaninov followed up the Liturgy of 1910. So in this collection the Evening Canticles – Magnificat and Nunc dimittis – as well as the Ave Maria were taken from the Vespers, with some repetitions omitted in the Magnificat to fit the English text. The rest came from the Liturgy.

The result, as atmospherically recorded by Priory, is most impressive with fine, incisive choral singing. All Saints is one of the three principal high-Anglican churches in central London that maintain the great church tradition of using a wide range of music, including elaborate settings of the Mass, liturgically in their weekly services. Yet where in 1924 All Saints had a team of boy choristers, all three of those churches nowadays rely on small professional choirs of women as well as men.

The choir as recorded on this disc consists of four sopranos, two altos (one male), three tenors and three basses, those last impressively plumbing the subterranean depths demanded by Rachmaninov in such movements as the Magnificat. It is true that the hypnotic quality of the original sequences of the Liturgy and Vespers, each roughly an hour long, is diluted in these much shorter works. It is also true that despite the efforts of the basses, the sound is very English, with the tenor, Julian Smith, and the soprano, Amy Moore, impressive soloists in the beautiful setting of the Nunc dimittis and Mark Bushby and Andrew Westwood contributing clean-cut solos to the Credo of the Mass. One hopes that this recording will encourage others to follow the example of All Saints in singing Rachmaninov, whether in cathedrals, collegiate churches or elsewhere.

As a half-hour supplement the disc also includes the Requiem Mass setting in D flat by Walter Vale, written even before he adapted Rachmaninov. It is a skilful blend of Anglican chant, plainsong and motets in an early-20th-century style. At the end comes an exuberant setting by Vale of a brief motet designed for use on Palm Sunday, Hosanna filio David, making a triumphant conclusion.

-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [4/2006]
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Works on This Recording

1. Ave Maria by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Paul Brough
Orchestra/Ensemble:  All Saints Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: Russia 
2. Requiem Mass in D flat major "Commemoration of the Faithful Departed" by Walter Vale
Conductor:  Paul Brough
Orchestra/Ensemble:  All Saints Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
3. Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, Op. 31: Excerpt(s) by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Paul Brough
Orchestra/Ensemble:  All Saints Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1910; Russia 
4. Vespers, Op. 37: Excerpt(s) by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Paul Brough
Orchestra/Ensemble:  All Saints Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1915; Russia 
5. O salutaris hostia by Eric Arnold
Conductor:  Paul Brough
Orchestra/Ensemble:  All Saints Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
6. Tantum ergo by Eric Arnold
Conductor:  Paul Brough
Orchestra/Ensemble:  All Saints Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 

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