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Bairstow: Choral Music / Hill, Williams, Provost, et al

Album Summary

>Bairstow, Edward : Jesu, the Very Thought of Thee for chorus & orchestra/organ
>Bairstow, Edward : Blessed city, heavenly Salem
>Bairstow, Edward : Evening Service for chorus & organ in D
>Bairstow, Edward : Lord, Thou Hast Been Our Refuge, for chorus & orchestra/organ
>Bairstow, Edward : If the Lord had not helped me, for chorus & organ
>Bairstow, Edward : Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence for chorus & orchestra/organ
>Bairstow, Edward : Evening Service for chorus & organ (or orchestra) in G major
>Bairstow, Edward : Five Poems of the Spirit, for solo baritone, choir & orchestra
>Bairstow, Edward : Save us, O Lord
Performers Composer

Notes & Reviews:

On this new disc, the dazzling Choir of St John's College, Cambridge, led by their Director of Music David Hill, turns to the music of Sir Edward Bairstow (1874-1946), an essential link in the British cathedral music tradition. Bairstow's talent for setting his texts "with a beauty which makes one never able to think of the words without recalling the music," as wrote the Dean of York on the occasion of Bairstow's seventieth birthday, is vividly demonstrated by the Choir of St John's' inspired readings, recorded in the matchless acoustic of the college chapel. The program spans the composer's entire career and includes classic numbers alongside some glorious rarities that illustrate his mastery of varied styles and developing harmonic language. The Five Poems of the Spirit are a particular highlight: beautiful and unexpected settings of metaphysical poetry for soloist, choir and orchestra, performed with passionate commitment by the wonderful baritone Roderick Williams and accompanied by the Britten Sinfonia.

'An excellent disc in regard both to the standard of performance and to the selection of Bairstow's music. And to that should be added straight away the quality of recorded sound ... The recommendation for this new issue is confirmed most decisively by the inclusion of the Five Poems of the Spirit ... Roderick Williams is the ideally suited soloist and the Britten Sinfonia do justice to a delightful score' (Gramophone)

'His anthems and services ... are treasured within the church. Their touch is sure, and their word-setting is impeccable ... Bairstow could hardly have finer advocates than David Hill's St John's Choir, beautiful in tone and balance, admirable clear in enunciation, well supported by rhythmic organ playing, and outstandingly well recorded' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Sung with real conviction by the Choir of St John's College, Cambridge' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Having praised David Hill and the Choir of St John's College, Cambridge in April 2007 for their disc of works by Jongen and Peeters, I find it a pleasure to give an emphatic nod to this new release as well ... The choir's intense sound is spot-on for this repertoire; no doubt Bairstow himself would have approved' (International Record Review)

'The very first track on the disc for instance, "Jesu. the very thought of thee" is quite beautifully written. The choice and use of texts was of paramount importance to Bairstow and he sets these with great care ... "Blessed city... " is on a grander scale and has real passion ... Most surprising of all is the sheer harmonic austerity. To those expecting tedious old Anglican Church music: think again! ... The real revelation is "Five Poems of the Spirit" ... These are perhaps a close relation of the "Five Mystical Songs" of Vaughan Williams and inhabit the same sort of rather reflective, and, yes, mystical soundworld, setting texts by the Metaphysical Poets Richard Crashaw and George Herbert as well as a beautiful poem by Sir Walter Raleigh, 'Purse and Scrip'. Bairstow responds to this with music that is confident, bracing, imaginative, and, at times, quite magical ... The wistful ending of the last setting makes one regret all the more that Bairstow didn't spend more time or have the confidence to set his mind to these larger projects. Anyone who loves English choral music will respond positively to every moment of these settings. As for the performances - the ever-reliable and versatile Roderick Williams is as eloquent as always and the Choir makes some wonderful sounds - the entry in the fourth part of 'Poems of the Spirit' is alone worth the price of the CD alone. Warmly and enthusiastically recommended' (ClassicalSource.com)

'Bairstow was several notches above the typical organ loft composer. His best work shows a keen sense of drama and a secure grasp of musical architecture ... His music has a warmth and grandeur that continues the best of the great tradition of English cathedral music ... The performances here are first rate ... The present recording amply demonstrates that St John's has one of the finest choirs in England. In addition, the quality of the recorded sound is delightful. It is a spacious and sumptuous sound with good presences. The Hyperion engineers manage again and again to find the formula that seems to elude so many others' (American Record Guide)

'This disc brings a most welcome surprise, the rarely heard late set for baritone, choir, and orchestra, Five Poems of the Spirit (1944). Written during the dark days of the war, these radiate the assurance we also hear in Vaughan Williams' Five Mystical Songs ... Roderick Williams sings the generous baritone solos clearly and with conviction and the Britten Sinfonia provides a solid support' (Fanfare, USA)

Gramophone Classical Music Guide
An excellent disc in regard both to the standard of performance and to the selection of Bairstow's music. And to that should be added straight away the quality of recorded sound, for in choral music of this type it is particularly important to allow for enough reverberance and sense of space without loss of clarity; also to balance choir and organ so as to keep a focus upon the singers and their words while enabling the organist to exploit the full range of the instrument in tone and volume.

The recommendation for this new issue is confirmed most decisively by the inclusion of the FivePoems of the Spirit. Completed in 1944, it remained unpublished till after Bairstow's death.

The orchestration was provided by Sir Ernest Bullock, and with its baritone solos and (largely) early-17th-century texts it stands, not unworthily, alongside Vaughan Williams's Five MysticalSongs. Particularly memorable is the fourth, Raleigh's 'Give me my scallop-shell of quiet', but all are attractive. Roderick Williams is the ideally suited soloist and the Britten Sinfonia do justice to a delightful score. In the accompanied anthems and services the organ parts are played with skilful registration by Paul Provost, and the choir sing throughout with their customary expressiveness and variety of colour: exquisitely (for instance) in the unaccompanied Jesu, the very thought of Thee.



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Works Details

>Bairstow, Edward : Jesu, the Very Thought of Thee for chorus & orchestra/organ
  • Notes: St. John's College Chapel, Cambridge, England (01/13/2007/01/14/2007)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 40 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic

>Bairstow, Edward : Blessed city, heavenly Salem
  • Performer: Paul Provost (Organ)
  • Notes: St. John's College Chapel, Cambridge, England (01/13/2007/01/14/2007)
  • Running Time: 8 min. 16 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Written: 1914

>Bairstow, Edward : Evening Service for chorus & organ in D
  • Performer: Paul Provost (Organ)
  • Notes: St. John's College Chapel, Cambridge, England (01/13/2007/01/14/2007)
  • Running Time: 8 min. 26 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Form: Choral

>Bairstow, Edward : Lord, Thou Hast Been Our Refuge, for chorus & orchestra/organ
  • Performer: Paul Provost (Organ)
  • Notes: St. John's College Chapel, Cambridge, England (01/13/2007/01/14/2007)
  • Running Time: 8 min. 6 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Written: 1917

>Bairstow, Edward : If the Lord had not helped me, for chorus & organ
  • Performer: Paul Provost (Organ)
  • Notes: St. John's College Chapel, Cambridge, England (01/13/2007/01/14/2007)
  • Running Time: 6 min. 27 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Written: circa 1910

>Bairstow, Edward : Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence for chorus & orchestra/organ
  • Notes: St. John's College Chapel, Cambridge, England (01/13/2007/01/14/2007)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 21 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1925

>Bairstow, Edward : Evening Service for chorus & organ (or orchestra) in G major
  • Performer: Paul Provost (Organ)
  • Notes: St. John's College Chapel, Cambridge, England (01/13/2007/01/14/2007)
  • Running Time: 6 min. 1 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic

>Bairstow, Edward : Five Poems of the Spirit, for solo baritone, choir & orchestra
  • Performer: Roderick Williams (Bass Baritone)
  • Notes: St. John's College Chapel, Cambridge, England (01/13/2007/01/14/2007)
  • Running Time: 13 min. 28 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic

>Bairstow, Edward : Save us, O Lord
  • Performer: Paul Provost (Organ)
  • Notes: St. John's College Chapel, Cambridge, England (01/13/2007/01/14/2007)
  • Running Time: 5 min. 12 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1902