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Leighton: The World's Desire / Wells Cathedral Choir


Release Date: 05/13/2008 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67641   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Kenneth Leighton
Performer:  David BednallChristopher SheldrakeIain Milne
Conductor:  Matthew Owens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Wells Cathedral Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 16 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This new release from Hyperion shows why the label is so revered by collectors: assuming the usual high quality of performers and engineering, you have to appreciate that in devoting an entire disc to this composer--an important figure in 20th-century British music--only one of the works, the organ prelude on the hymn tune Rockingham, has been recorded with any frequency, and of the other four pieces, three are first recordings. Nor are these minor compositions--even the relatively short anthem O God, enfold me in the sun is quite substantial and powerful in effect, supported by one of Leighton's famously bold and muscular organ accompaniments. In an earlier review of a Naxos recording of other sacred Leighton works (type Q7497 in Search Read more Reviews) I described his music, and the description holds true for these pieces, written between 1967 and 1984: "The style of Leighton's compositions embraces the characteristics of much of the English cathedral music of the last century, including significant, often virtuosic organ parts and wide-ranging (both in vocal registers and dynamics) choral writing that incorporates substantial blocks of dissonance into the tonal harmonic structure, along with angular melodies and lively, often irregular rhythmic schemes that emphasize natural textual inflection (much of this a clear debt to Britten)."

Both the Sequence for All Saints and The World's Desire are functional works for church festivals, but they also show Leighton's skillful awareness of how to fill big spaces with profoundly affecting choral music, and although he's certainly not a melodist, nor one concerned with grabbing the listener with an obvious sentimental gesture, he never loses sense of the text nor fails to exploit the endless textural possibilities inherent in the combination of voices with organ. The Communion section of the All Saints sequence and the a cappella "The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap" from The World's Desire are as movingly, evocatively written as anything in the 20th century choral repertoire (the latter capturing the same otherworldly atmosphere as Leighton's classic Christmas piece, Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child).

Needless to say, all of this is performed with knowing style and solid technique--and impressively well-tuned, warmly bright trebles--by the Wells Cathedral Choir and organist David Bednall. The sound, from the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew in Wells, places these works in the appropriate acoustic context, allowing the big moments (especially for organ!) to really open up, if, expectedly, at some sacrifice of detail in the inner choral parts. An important addition to the catalog; highly recommended!

--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sequence for All Saints, Op. 75 by Kenneth Leighton
Performer:  David Bednall (Organ)
Conductor:  Matthew Owens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Wells Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 24 Minutes 24 Secs. 
2.
Rockingham by Kenneth Leighton
Performer:  David Bednall (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Length: 3 Minutes 3 Secs. 
3.
O God, enfold me in the sun by Kenneth Leighton
Performer:  David Bednall (Organ)
Conductor:  Matthew Owens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Wells Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 3 Minutes 56 Secs. 
4.
Venite by Kenneth Leighton
Performer:  David Bednall (Organ)
Conductor:  Matthew Owens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Wells Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 3 Minutes 36 Secs. 
5.
Te Deum laudamus by Kenneth Leighton
Performer:  David Bednall (Organ)
Conductor:  Matthew Owens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Wells Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1964/1966 
Length: 7 Minutes 39 Secs. 
6.
Jubilate Deo "O be joyful in the Lord" by Kenneth Leighton
Performer:  David Bednall (Organ)
Conductor:  Matthew Owens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Wells Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 3 Minutes 48 Secs. 
7.
The World's Desire, Op. 91 "A Sequence for Epiphany" by Kenneth Leighton
Performer:  Christopher Sheldrake (Bass), Iain Milne (Tenor), David Bednall (Organ)
Conductor:  Matthew Owens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Wells Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1984; Scotland 
Length: 29 Minutes 7 Secs. 

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