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Vaughan Williams: Silence And Music, Mass In G Minor; Macmillan / Creed, Et Al


Release Date: 04/14/2009 
Label:  Hänssler Classic   Catalog #: 93250   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ralph Vaughan WilliamsJames MacMillan
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Mass in g. 1 Silence and Music. MACMILLAN O bone Jesu. 2 Màiri Marcus Creed, cond; Kerstin Steube (sop); 1 Maria van Eldik (alt); 1 Alexander Yudenkov (ten); 1 Achim Jäckel (bs); Read more class="SUPER12">1 Aleksandra Lustig (sop); 2 Ulrike Becker (alt); 2 Julius Pfeifer (ten); 2 Bernhard Hartmann (bs); 2 Stuttgart Southwest German R Vocal Ens HÄNSSLER 93.250 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 52:48 Text and Translation)


When I first saw this, I balked a bit, not being sure at all how James Macmillan would go down with Vaughan Williams’s tribute to Renaissance polyphonic choral models. MacMillan, after all, can be a bad boy when it comes to dense choral harmonies, and even though Vaughan Williams leaves cadences hanging, indulges in parallel fifths, changes meters, and presents us with irregular phrasings, the airy aroma emanating from the Mass in G is still, remarkably, one of Tallis and Byrd, disguised in contemporary clothing. MacMillan makes no such pretences as to time period; this is ethereal, modulating, and manically merging textural music that reeks of the space age, despite the presence of a few medieval technical traits that to me are present only incidentally, not necessarily as a conscious imitation.


But the composition of O bone Jesu is based at least structurally on a work by 16th-century composer Robert Carver, who wrote a 19-part motet based on an anonymous text that was quite noted in its time. MacMillan makes hints as to the techniques used in that work, but formally adopts its organization, the name “Jesu” called out many times from the midst of rather dense (but amazingly transparent) homophonic chords. Evan MacColl’s (1808–98) ballade, Màiri , is the text for a BBC commission that resulted in a 16-part motet with madrigal allusions on a story of the loss of intense love. I don’t want to over-emphasize the “madrigal” comparison, for that is probably not what most listeners will be thinking of when hearing this work. But its textual honesty and emotional melancholy make for a very involved experience.


The Mass in G has had a lot of recordings, not all successful. Alan Swanson liked the Corydon Singers on Helios ( Fanfare 31:6), while James Miller seems to prefer His Majestie’s Clerkes, a Chicago-based ensemble (25:6, 26:2). Knowing the Corydon Singers from other recordings, I think I can vouch for Swanson’s choice; but like Miller, I also have favored His Majestie’s Clerkes. But be it known that Martin Anderson positively disliked the Çedille disc with the Clerkes (21:6); I guess there’s no accounting for taste in this one. What I can report is that this Mass by the unflappable Marcus Creed is one of the best I have heard, if not the best—but I won’t make that claim just yet. Suffice it to say that no one will be disappointed in Creed’s ability to illumine the many tangled textures of Vaughan Williams’s choral masterpiece.


Perhaps the coupling might make a difference. Silence and Music , based on Ursula Woods’s poem of the same name, was written in 1952 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Ten composers were asked to contribute to a pastiche cycle called A Garland for the Queen . The composers—Bax, Berkeley, Bliss, Finzi, Howells, Ireland, Rawsthorne, Rubbra, Tippett, and Vaughan Williams—read like a who’s who of modern British music. The text Vaughan Williams set is an image of calm nature. Ursula Woods, 40 years younger than the composer, and a close friend of the family, became his wife that same year, his first wife Adeline having died previously.


The performances are all stunning, and having the Vaughan Williams in surround sound is an added bonus. A fine release, eminently recommendable.


FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
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Works on This Recording

1. Mass in G minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920-1921; England 
2. Silence and music by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953; England 
3. Màiri by James MacMillan
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995; Scotland 
4. O bone Jesu by James MacMillan
Conductor:  Marcus Creed
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2002; Scotland 

Sound Samples

O bone Jesu
Mairi
Mass in G minor: Kyrie
Mass in G minor: Gloria
Mass in G minor: Credo
Mass in G minor: Sanctus
Mass in G minor: Benedictus
Mass in G minor: Agnus Dei
Silence and Music

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