Notes and Editorial Reviews
Just a trifle premature perhaps, this anthology draws on what is certainly approximating to 1,000 years in the musical life of Edward the Confessor's Abbey, consecrated in 1065. The plainsong to which Te Deum laudamus is sung may indeed antedate the building itself and be a relic of Saint Dunstan's monastery from still earlier times, in which case the 'millennium of music' is quite properly named. As to the coverage, it ranges from the earliest times to the latest but is necessarily selective, omitting certain periods altogether. Three hundred years elapse before the Te Deum is followed by the advent carol, Angelus ad Virginem (c1360). The fifteenth century has one representative, the sixteenth another; then Gibbons (organist 1623-5) has two works and Purcell (organist 1679-95) two more, with Blow (whose second period, 1695-1708, is not mentioned in the notes) and, not so much later, Handel making of these 50 years or so something of a second golden age. The 'Epoch of Neglect' (as it has been called) is then duly neglected, and with the exception of a sturdy Anglican chant by James Turle, nothing intervenes before the great leap forward to 1947 and Dr McKie. These final decades, as is often the way with such collections, do pretty well, and the last nine of the 22 tracks celebrate the works of rather less than the past 50 years.
They do the period credit. Francis Grier's Mass (without Credo) impresses as being a product of the best traditions of the 'millennium' yet strong in its own uncomplacent creativity. Howells's Westminster Service is, surprisingly, new to the current catalogues, and Peter Hurford's Litany to the Holy Spirit is a most lovely and skilful setting of Herrick's verses. Performances are fine, though not, I would say, stamped with the conviction and individuality of style that mark a great choir in a great period of their history. Comparing the Purcell anthems with recordings by Christ Church Cathedral Choir under Simon Preston (Archiv, 7/81), one finds there a sharper insight and subtler responsiveness. In other comparisons – for instance, with Trinity College, Cambridge, on Conifer (9/87) and the King's Consort on Hyperion (4/93 and 2/94) – we find their recorded sound to be more direct: there is plenty of atmosphere in this Sony recording but the singers are more remote. An interesting and rewarding disc even so.'
-- Gramophone [12/1995]