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Vaughan Williams: Mass in G Minor / Nethsingha, St. John's College Choir

Release Date: 05/18/2018 
Label:  Signum Classics   Catalog #: 541  
Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Alfred HarrisonDavid BlackadderHugh CuttingAlexander Tomkinson,   ... 
Conductor:  Andrew Nethsingha
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge St. John's College Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Andrew Nethsingha and The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge mark the centenary of the 1918 Armistice with a new recording of choral works by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Many of the works were composed in the years immediately following the event, including ‘O clap your hands,’ ‘Lord, thou hast been our refuge’ and the Mass in G minor which leads the programme. Vaughan Williams turned his attention to liturgical music following his service as a wagon orderly during the Great War. Ursula Vaughan Williams, his second wife and biographer, wrote that such work ‘gave Ralph vivid awareness of how men died’. It is perhaps unsurprising that in many of the texts to which he turned after the 1918 Armistice, the fragility and weakness of humanity Read more becomes a recurrent theme. Despite being described as a ‘confirmed atheist’ by the philosopher Bertrand Russell, his heightened exploration of Christian texts, symbols, and images after the War might rather be understood both as an attempt to grapple anew with what might lie, as he put it, ‘beyond sense and knowledge’, and to search for consolation in religious and other inherited traditions amid a world irrevocably changed. The fifth release in their series with Signum, the Choir of St John’s have received glowing praise for their previous releases, culminating in the choral prize at the 2017 BBC Music Magazine Awards for their debut release of works by Jonathan Harvey. Read less

Works on This Recording

Mass in G minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Alfred Harrison (Treble), David Blackadder (Trumpet), Hugh Cutting (Countertenor),
Alexander Tomkinson (Treble), Daniel Brown (Countertenor), Gopal Kambo (Tenor),
Joseph Wicks (Organ), James Adams (Bass)
Conductor:  Andrew Nethsingha
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge St. John's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920-1921; England 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Ends of a continuum, plus one in the middle June 3, 2018 By Dean Frey See All My Reviews "Having just completed a review of a Vaughan Williams CD from Toronto, I'm back on familiar English turf with this new recording of his choral music from The Choir of St. John's Cambridge. However, here's fair warning that I'm going to stay on what might be a controversial topic: the question of Trans-Atlantic Vaughan Williams. The new disc is beautifully sung, and sounds outstanding. But I have a sentimental favourite for the G Minor Mass from the Olden Days of the long-playing record: the Roger Wagner Chorale on a 1961 Angel LP matched with a Bach cantata. Though never released on CD by EMI, there's a very good Pristine Classical re-issue of this most passionate recording from Los Angeles, with a small choir of some of the greatest American singers ever assembled. Though the complete list of singers isn't included in the notes, the Chorale at one point included the Hollywood superstars Marni Nixon and Salli Terri. In a rave review of the Pristine Classical disc, SGS says "It comes down to rhythm. Vaughan Williams actually swings in this score, and British choirs don't. They tend toward bloodless piety. I think the work really benefits from Wagner's point of view outside the English cathedral tradition." I'm half way to agreeing with this, but I suspect my enthusiasm also comes from more than a bit of sheer nostalgia. The new disc, meanwhile, is from the Choir of St. John's Cambridge, which I assume puts it firmly in the English cathedral tradition. This performance of the Mass is cooler, more serene; at times it even sounds careful. So sure, looked at in a certain way you might call it bloodless, but then from another one might call the Roger Wagner version vulgar, especially considering the Leopold Stokowski style re-orchestration and recording gimmicks to highlight the work in the Hollywood style. Vaughan Williams had in mind Byrd and Tallis, of course, but there are more modern influences from the Continent as well, including especially Ravel. We have, then, two completely different readings of this impressive work, each pretty much at an end of the continuum. It's probably very Canadian of me to introduce a (Canadian) compromise that fits nicely in the middle, with choral singing at the same high level as the other two: the 2002 Naxos recording with the Elora Festival Singers under Noel Edison. It's a sign of the greatness of Vaughan Williams' choral writing that three interpretations so completely different can all provide such pleasure." Report Abuse
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