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Vaughan Williams: Mass In G Minor; Bingham / Baker, Et Al


Release Date: 06/14/2005 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67503   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ralph Vaughan WilliamsJudith Bingham
Performer:  Robert Quinney
Conductor:  Martin Baker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 20 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Vaughan Williams' Mass in G minor never achieved the repertoire status of, say, Britten's Missa Brevis in D or Requiems by Fauré or Howells or Rachmaninov's Vespers, perhaps due to its overtly liturgical character (this is not primarily a concert piece) or its scoring for double SATB chorus and a quartet of soloists (not the province of most of today's church choirs). Nevertheless, it's an impressive and important work whose mix of early and modern modal melodic and harmonic styles is technically artful and affecting in its realization of the texts. It's also great fun to sing and its declamatory style makes it ideal for a church-service setting. In fact, in its unadorned, straightforward use of voices and choral textures, it's one Read more of the more successful mass settings of the 20th--or any other--century. Here it receives a performance that's as technically solid and vocally assured as we expect from this fine choir, the full-bodied, organ-like textures as well defined as the solo quartet is carefully balanced. The other Vaughan Williams pieces are equally accomplished, especially the O vos omnes (cut from the same stylistic cloth as the Mass) and the wild and surprisingly un-Vaughan Williams-like A vision of aeroplanes, a tour-de-force for organist Robert Quinney, whose considerable skills also are highlighted in the Mass by Judith Bingham (b. 1952).


Bingham's work makes an excellent pairing, for although it definitely comes from a harmonic world less-traditional than that of Vaughan Williams, its careful attention to texts, its textural clarity, and even much of its choral sonority--particularly in the tutti passages--seems to arise from the same creative purpose: to "write a good Mass". Bingham is a master of color and mood, the Agnus Dei especially memorable for its ingenious use of chant-like melodies, surprising harmonies, sudden unison phrases alternating with richly harmonized responses, all in concordance--and contrast--with a substantial organ part. I'm not convinced of the functional need for Bingham's programmatic insertions--a preamble and postlude (voluntary) for solo organ, and a choral offertory--that concern the Apostles' encounters with the resurrected Christ, but structurally they make sense in the context of a service, and the organ writing (and playing) certainly keeps you in your seat!


The choir as usual sings with the same raw-edged treble sound favored and fostered by Westminster's Master of the Music George Malcolm in the 1950s. Consequently--and this also is due to the Cathedral's distinctive acoustic, which characteristically affects every choir recording from this venue--the treble quality at louder volume tends to glare and become somewhat steely. It's not offensive by any means, but it also doesn't convey the warmer choral quality that you hear in recordings from, say, Ely Cathedral or Cambridge's Trinity Chapel. Most important is the fact that the performances are outstanding--and Bingham's Mass is a significant and powerful work whose sincere, honest expression of its sacred purpose is reassuring in a world where some composers' contrived, opportunistic spirituality too often gets the limelight--and the big recording contracts. [5/19/2005]
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Mass in G minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Robert Quinney (Organ)
Conductor:  Martin Baker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920-1921; England 
2.
O vos omnes by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Robert Quinney (Organ)
Conductor:  Martin Baker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1922; England 
3.
Valiant for truth by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Robert Quinney (Organ)
Conductor:  Martin Baker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; England 
4.
A vision of aeroplanes by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Robert Quinney (Organ)
Conductor:  Martin Baker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; England 
5.
Te Deum in G major by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Robert Quinney (Organ)
Conductor:  Martin Baker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; England 
6.
Mass by Judith Bingham
Performer:  Robert Quinney (Organ)
Conductor:  Martin Baker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 

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