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Stainer: The Crucifixion / Gilchrist, Bailey, Brown, Et Al

Release Date: 05/17/2005 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8557624   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  John Stainer
Performer:  Stephen FarrJames GilchristSimon Bailey
Conductor:  Timothy Brown
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Clare College Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Although John Stainer borrowed some ideas from Bach's Passions for setting his "meditation" on the Crucifixion of Christ, unfortunately the manner of the work's opening wasn't one of them. Instead of engaging the audience/congregation and setting the mood with a strong choral statement, Stainer opted to begin with many minutes of recitative and solo singing, occasionally punctuated by some very staid, musically unremarkable choral interjections. What should be a profoundly moving, serious scene is introduced with no solid musico/dramatic context, and the actual musical ideas--especially the meandering melodies--are common rather than exceptional. I realize that this work has long held a place of great reverence by many singers and Read more congregations, but this is due more to its being tailor-made for regular parish church choirs and organists (and we can always use more of those kinds of pieces!) than for its musical depth or sophistication.

Whatever the case, millions of people love Stainer's Crucifixion--or more accurately, most love it for its one shining moment, the chorus God so loved the world, and rightly so, for these famous words from John 3: 16, 17 never have been more affecting or effectively rendered in music. Somehow, even though the rest of the work sounds stylistically dated in its predictable late-Romantic harmony, melodramatic expression, and often quaint language ("Fling wide the gates, for the Saviour waits" is one of the cornier phrases), this chorus holds up even today and stands on its own as a small masterpiece.

Not surprisingly, Timothy Brown and his first-rate Clare College Choir (along with organist Stephen Farr) deliver very fine performances, sounding as if they truly are among those who love this work (and the complementary Guildford Cathedral acoustics also are an asset). Tenor James Gilchrist is less convincing, his expression often overly mannered--although, given the nature of the music he has to work with, I suppose we can't blame him! Likewise, bass Simon Bailey tries hard to find something musically profound in his solos, but in the process his wide vibrato becomes distracting. In sum, this Crucifixion is as good as the one recorded by the Peterborough Cathedral Choir on Resonance, and, dare I say it, if you like this work, you'll find what you're looking for here.

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

Crucifixion by John Stainer
Performer:  Stephen Farr (Organ), James Gilchrist (Tenor), Simon Bailey (Bass)
Conductor:  Timothy Brown
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Clare College Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; England 
Length: 66 Minutes 47 Secs. 
Language: English 

Sound Samples

The Crucifixion: Recitative: And they came to a place named Gethsemane (Tenor)
The Crucifixion: The Agony (Bass, Chorus) - Recitative: And they laid their hands on Him (Tenor, Bass)
The Crucifixion: Processional to Calvary (Tenor, Chorus)
The Crucifixion: Recitative: And when they were come (Bass)
The Crucifixion: Hymn: The Mystery of the Divine Humiliation
The Crucifixion: Recitative: He made Himself of no reputation (Bass)
The Crucifixion: The Majesty of the Divine Humiliation (Tenor)
The Crucifixion: Recitative: And as Moses lifted up the serpent (Bass)
The Crucifixion: Chorus: God so loved the world
The Crucifixion: Hymn: Litany of the Passion
The Crucifixion: Recitative: Jesus said, "Father, forgive them" (Tenor, Chorus)
The Crucifixion: Duet: So Thou liftest Thy divine petition (Tenor, Bass)
The Crucifixion: Hymn: The Mystery of the Intercession
The Crucifixion: Recitative: And one of the malefactors (Tenor, Bass, Chorus)
The Crucifixion: Hymn: The Adoration of the Crucified
The Crucifixion: Recitative: When Jesus therefore saw His mother (Tenor, Bass, Chorus)
The Crucifixion: Recitative: Is it nothing to you? (Bass)
The Crucifixion: Chorus: The Appeal of the Crucified
The Crucifixion: Recitative: After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished (Tenor, Chorus)
The Crucifixion: Hymn: For the love of Jesus

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