Reviews

GMCD 7102 – Coronation Anthems & Hymns

The Choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Barry Rose – Director,
Christopher Dearnley – Organist

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Source: American Record Guide, Vol: 58 No 5 Issue: September/October 1995

This music was recorded in 1977 and 1978 (analog) in St Paul’s Cathedral, in connection with the Service of Thanksgiving held there on June 7, 1977, for the 25th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne. The selections also draw from works performed at the Queen’s coronation in 1953, as well as the coronations of George VI, George V and Edward VII.
Of course, many pieces were performed at more than one of these occasions. Sir Hubert Parry’s I was glad, for example, has been performed at every British Coronation since 1902. It is given here with the Royal Vivats that are usually omitted when the anthem is performed other than in the presence of the reigning sovereign.
Much of the music, of course, is grandiose, with participation of the Royal Trumpets from Kneller Hall: the opening fanfare by Sir Arthur Bliss; Parry’s I was glad; the final stanza of Sir John Goss’s Praise, my soul. the Vaughan Williams arrangement of The Old 100th, and the Gordon Jacob arrangement of God save the Queen, both for the 1953 coronation – Other works are of a quieter and more reflective character: Vaughan Williams’s O taste and see for the 1953 Coronation and the Credo from his Mass in G minor (1923), sung to English words on that occasion but given here in the original Latin; Samuel Sebastian Wesley’s anthem, and two works composed especially for the 1977 Thanksgiving Service: Psalm 121 to a chant by Barry Rose, and Christopher Dearnley’s unaccompanied anthem.
Falling between these extremes are the two Te Deum settings. The Stanford Te Deum is performed with the special fanfare introduction added to the work for the 1902 Coronation, but here it is played on the organ. Were the Kneller Hall trumpets on tea break? Dearnley’s Dominus regit me is a quiet organ chorale prelude based on the hymn tune by JB Dykes.
All in all, the program is varied and well balanced. Having said this, I suspect that the disc will appeal most to the listener who is interested in an overwhelming wash of sound. The emphasis is on grandeur and the full reverberation of the vast interior of St Paul’s Cathedral, sometimes at the expense of clarity. The Kneller Hall trumpets bid fair to demolish the chandeliers. To my ear, the organ and choir have a slightly hard sound that is surprising in such a reverberant interior. Cut-offs at the ends of pieces, especially the louder ones, are followed by thunderous resonance, as the sound echoes down the immense nave of the cathedral.
This disc reminds me of one that I reviewed a few years ago, called Great Music from Great Occasions at Westminster Abbey (IMP 919; Nov/Dec 1991) with the Abbey Choir and London Brass under the direction of Martin Neary. Several selections appear on both discs. The recording at Westminster Abbey is, to my ear, more favorable to the music itself. I still recommend it to the novice who wants to get to know English Cathedral music. This one is more for atmosphere.
GATENS

Source: Fanfare July/August 1995, Vol. 18, no. 6

The Guild reissue takes us back nearly twenty years. but the choir has the same endearing qualities: Note: as but one example, their shrewd navigation of the potentially treacherous harmonic shift leading to O Lord, Save Thy People in the Britten Te Deum. The sporadic contributions of the brass provide a timbral range missing on the Hyperion disc, too.
Certainly, the Parry makes a grander splash with Colonel Sharpe’s military reinforcements. It must be said, though, that the music on the Guild collection is more relentlessly unflappable (not surprising, given the social function of Coronation music) – and in the end, despite the respite provided by the excerpt from the Vaughan Williams Mass, it makes a less effective program.
Still, those who hunger after this repertoire will find plenty to nourish them; and the engineering holds up well. Good notes and texts on both discs.
Peter J. Rabinowitz