Reviews

GMCD 7271 – Portsmouth Remembers

Portsmouth Cathedral Choir, Anthony Froggatt – Director, The Regent Brass Ensemble, David Thorne – Organ

To the CD in our Shop


SOURCE NOT KNOWN

The lighthouse at Portsmouth has served as a beacon for mariners for years and also is a symbol of those who have served their country, The Portsmouth Cathedral Choir is a good one, and this CD has tracks recorded in 1984 and 2003. In the rosters printed only one tenor was there in both years. The organ was rebuilt in the years between sessions also, and the specs for each Organ are given. The gap between 1984 and 2003 also explains why three organists appear an the CD.

The Regent Brass Ensemble is a quartet which joins in an the hymns. There are some pieces new to me worth hearing. Among them are Mark Blatchly’s setting of Binyan’s “For the Fallen”. We usually hear the Elgar version. Then there is a major anthem by

Alan Gray, What are these that glow from afar for a Saint’s Day.

The words are by Christina Rossetti. Really nice. Tavener’s Funeral Ikos is especially beautiful. Karl Jenkins was commissioned by the Royal Armouries to Write a Millennium piece. The Mass’The Armed Man’ resulted, and an the CD there is just the gorgeous Benedictus. The mass is tkdicated to the victims of Kosovo. I’d like to hear the entire piece some day.

Parry, Bullock, Ireland, Walford Davies, and Joubert are represented with familiar pieces also. Collectors of church music, cathedral Organs, etc., will wart to add this one to their already bulging shelves.


Suffolk & Norfolk Life October 2005

There are times when trying to make sense of a selection really takes some working out, but stick with me and maybe all will become clear. This month’s selection of recent and new CDs is-all associated with Suffolk and Norfolk (well Cambridgeshire is thrown in for good measure). Last year I was conducting a concert an the night of the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, but it was for a previous Festival in 1980 that former Ipswich student, Mark Blatchly wrote an anthem, For the Fallen. This evocative setting of Laurence Binyon’s poem incorporates the Last Post, and it was featured again in last year’s commemoration of the D-Day Landings. Portsmouth Remembers is as appropriate in this year of VE and V) Days as it was last year. Portsmouth Cathedral Choir and the Regent Brass Ensemble perform 18 works including Parry’s Jerusalem and the hymn Eternal father, Strong to save, which was to find it’s way in Benjamin Britten’s musical setting of the Story of Saint Nicolas. Michael Tippett’s setting of the spiritual Steal away also is performed in this moving selection
Chris Green

MusicWeb 22.06.04

The boy sopranos soar effortlessly above the tenor and bass lines, and this made the experience rather special. …

This collection of sacred part songs and hymns provides an interesting programme: Ireland’s Te Deum, Tippett’s Ikos funeral music, Fauré’s Agnus Dei (Requiem) and the refreshingly modern Benedictus from Jenkins’ The Armed Man are all welcome items. The hymns are of the ‘Songs of Praise’ variety, but these are punctuated by a couple of organ pieces to make a colourful change. The hymns here are well known and this is just as well since diction is poor from the rececessed congregation in a wide acoustic. The repetitive nature of hymns is always helped by the inclusion of a descant verse from the well-trained choir and this is particularly uplifting for two of the hymns, Light’s abode and Eternal Father. The hymn, Light’s abode (Henry Smart) is rather pedestrian in speed for its jolly tune.

In the part songs, the reverberation that masks clarity in the hymns tends to promote a very pleasing effect where the boy sopranos soar effortlessly above the tenor and bass lines, and this made the experience rather special. Of the choral pieces, I found Gray’s What are these that glow bright and full of energy and Parry’s Chorale Prelude a nice diversion. Anyone who hasn’t heard the Benedictus yet from The Armed Man will undoubtedly be moved by it.

The warmth of the recording with its wide frequency range complements the impressive organ’s rich bass registers. It is unfair to differentiate between the playing of its three soloists as all contribute excellently to the programme. The addition of the Regent Brass Band for some of the hymns adds welcome colour and lifts the overall sound-picture.

Perhaps I could have done without the uninspired (to my ears) Joubert piece when it must have been a difficult choice to decide what to leave out of such a programme.

The booklet, in English only, gives useful background snippets and a full specification of the organ which I notice sports a number of 16′ ranks and one 32′ sub bass pedal.
Raymond J, Walker

Sptifire May 04

I CAN thoroughly recommend this new compilation CD from the modern Portsmouth Cathedral with its historic military connections. The inspiring quality of the contents is equalled by the musicianship of artists all well established and respected in their own spheres as composers, musical directors, organists, choristers and brass instrumentalists.

A stimulating musical anthology of traditional hymns, psalms, poems and anthems with an excerpt from a mass, an oratorio etc. Composers range from the sixteenth century Gabrielli through to the present day Sir John Taverner.

Tracks 1 to 12 are recoded from the earlier organ in 1984, and also include the melodious Regent Brass Ensemble; the remaining six tracks feature the magnificently extended organ of recent years.
HAL


Classics Today Tuesday May 11 04

The disc’s title refers to Portsmouth, England’s traditional community role as welcomer of seafarers and rememberer of “those whose lives have been given in sacrifice to their country.” Here, the choir of its renowned cathedral sings works to honor and commemorate these revered souls, performing many of the best-known cathedral anthems and hymns along with several organ selections. Highlights include the familiar hymns “Light’s abode, Celestial Salem” (Regent Square), “Love Divine, all loves excelling” (to the less-commonly heard Blaenwern), “He who would valiant be” (Monk’s Gate), and Parry’s eminent and powerful “Jerusalem”, along with anthems such as Herbert Sumsion’s They that go down to the sea in ships and Mark Blatchly’s For the fallen. Michael Tippett’s setting of Steal Away (from his oratorio A Child of our Time) and Karl Jenkins’ Benedictus (from his Mass “The Armed Man”) are particularly notable for their originality (Tippett) and tunefulness (Jenkins).

As expected, the choir performs admirably and confidently in this bread-and-butter repertoire, and fans of English cathedral music will certainly enjoy the program despite its lack of unusual or rarely heard works. Depending on volume and forces engaged, the sound can be a bit saturated and lacking in inner detail–but that is not uncommon in this kind of music, especially when the choir is joined by organ and brass and recorded in a big, resonant space. The majority of the tracks were recorded in 1984, the rest in 2003. While certainly not a must-have recording, this is a sincerely conceived, solidly performed, and very generously programmed (nearly 79 minutes) effort. Those who want or need this know who they are.
David Vernier