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Bernstein: Chichester Psalms; Barber, Copland / Matthew Best


Release Date: 11/12/1993 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 66219   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Samuel BarberLeonard BernsteinAaron Copland
Performer:  Rachel MastersGary KettelThomas TrotterDominic Martelli,   ... 
Conductor:  Matthew Best
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Corydon Singers
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 54 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

When Walter Hussey, then Dean of Chichester, commissioned a work from Leonard Bernstein for the 1965 Chichester Festival, he stipulated an instrumentation of strings, three trumpets, three trombones, two harps and percussion. In his prefatory note to the score of the Chichester Psalms which resulted, Bernstein wrote: ''The soprano and alto parts are written with boys' voices in mind. It is possible, though not preferable, to substitute women's voices''. Rather perversely, he conducted the first performance (in New York, on July 15th, 1965) with a mixed chorus, though the Chichester performance, which took place two weeks later, was given with male voices only.

The performance recorded here, like the one on EMI by King's
Read more offered for comparison, uses Bernstein's own reduced (but very effective) instrumentation of organ, harp and percussion, but follows the composer's New York precedent in employing a mixed chorus—although the illusion of a cathedral choir is persuasively conveyed. It is very impressive. The singing of the Corydon Singers under Matthew Best is very fine, and Hyperion's vivid recording (made in St Jude on the Hill in Hampstead), which gives the voices a pleasant bloom while avoiding the resonance of King's College Chapel, reproduces the instrumental accompaniment, notably the percussion (brilliantly played by Gary Kettel) with electrifying impact. For the second of the three Psalms Bernstein stipulated that the winsome solo part should be taken ''not by a woman, but either by a boy or a counter-tenor''. Matthew Best's soloist is Dominic Martelli, and very sweetly he sings; but he cannot compare with the seductive artistry of James Bowman, who sings for Philip Ledger.

The rest of the EMI disc is devoted to music by Britten: the festival cantata Rejoice in the Lamb (another commission from Canon Hussey), two settings of the Te Deum and one of the Jubilate Deo. The programme of the Hyperion disc is all-American, the second side being devoted to unaccompanied choral music by Copland: In the Beginning, a striking 15-minute 'Creation' for mixed four-part chorus and solo mezzo (eloquently done by Catherine Denley) written in 1947, and three of four short motets he composed in 1921, while studying with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, and which he was reluctant to have published because he considered them to be too heavily indebted to Mussorgsky. The filler on Side 1 is by Barber, a setting of the Agnus Dei which dates from 1967 and which sounds uncannily familiar—and now wonder, since it turns out to be an arrangement of the famous Adagio for strings which made his name when Toscanini performed it in New York in 1938.

All in all this is an imaginative and enterprising programme, with a nice balance between the familiar and the obscure, extremely well sung and vividly recorded.

-- Robin Golding. Gramophone [9/1987]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Agnus Dei, Op. 11 by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  Matthew Best
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Corydon Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/1986 
Venue:  St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead, London 
Length: 9 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
Notes: This work is a vocal arrangement of the composer's 'Adagio for Strings.' 
2.
Chichester Psalms by Leonard Bernstein
Performer:  Rachel Masters (Harp), Gary Kettel (Percussion), Thomas Trotter (Organ),
Dominic Martelli (Boy Soprano)
Conductor:  Matthew Best
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Corydon Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1965; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/1986 
Venue:  St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead, London 
Length: 18 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Language: Hebrew 
3.
In the Beginning by Aaron Copland
Performer:  Catherine Denley (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Matthew Best
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Corydon Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/1986 
Venue:  St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead, London 
Length: 15 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Language: English 
4.
Motets (4): no 1, Help us, O Lord by Aaron Copland
Conductor:  Matthew Best
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Corydon Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 05/1986 
Venue:  St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead, London 
Length: 2 Minutes 42 Secs. 
Language: English 
5.
Motets (4): no 2, Have mercy on us, O my Lord by Aaron Copland
Conductor:  Matthew Best
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Corydon Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 05/1986 
Venue:  St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead, London 
Length: 3 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Language: English 
6.
Motets (4): no 3, Sing ye praises to our King by Aaron Copland
Conductor:  Matthew Best
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Corydon Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 05/1986 
Venue:  St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead, London 
Length: 2 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Language: English 

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