Reviews

GMCD 7226 – O Magnum Mysterium – Christmas Music and Chorals

The Choir of Lincoln College Oxford, Tom Lydon – Conductor, Philip Smith – Organ

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By John Quinn

And still they come! The latest choir to add a Christmas recital to this ever-expanding section of the catalogue is that of Lincoln College, Oxford. The choir consists of 22 singers and like so many other Oxbridge choirs these days it mixes male and female voices – but unlike some rival choirs the alto line is entirely female.

Recorded in the chapel of another Oxford college, these fresh young voices produce a very nice sound. However, I was not sure the choir was properly balanced. At times the tenors seemed just a little too prominent. More seriously, as the recital progressed I came to feel that by a fraction the soprano line was just not quite strong enough. This may be due to a lack of numbers (there are seven sopranos listed) or perhaps a better internal balance is required. That the choir includes some capable singers is evident from the pleasing solo contributions to several items. The soprano soloists make particularly attractive sounds though I’m sorry to report that the Director, Tom Lydon sounds strained in the solo part in Cornelius’ ‘Three Kings’.

Generally the programme is attractive and the inclusion of organ solos by Ireland and Gigout, well played by Philip Smith, is welcome. I was delighted to find included Pierre Villette’s atmospheric setting of ‘O Magnum Mysterium’ (which receives a very good performance). There is more French music in the shape of Poulenc’s exquisite motets, though my impression was that these taxing pieces took the singers to their limits.

However, I felt some of the other choices in the programme were less enterprising. I love Howells’ ‘A Spotless Rose’ but is it not over-exposed nowadays? Similarly, I would have welcomed hearing something a little less familiar as alternatives to the Darke and Cornelius items.

In summary, this is a generally enjoyable release. However, it enters a crowded and highly competitive field and in the last analysis I believe it lacks that extra ounce of distinction which would make it a leading recommendation.


Gramophone December 2001

There is much to cheer, also, in Guild’s disc of ‘Christmas Music and Carols’, featuring the Choir of Lincoln College, Oxford directed by Tom Lydon Guild GMCD 7226. In adition to many old (and beautifully polished) baubles there are convincing accounts of Poulenc’s Quatre motets pour le temps de Quatre motets pour le temps de noël, a perfectly judged Bethlehem Down (Warlock) and Gigout’s Rhapsodie sur des Noëls played with obvious relish by the organist Philip Smith. Congratulations to all those concerned.
Malcolm Riley

Cathedral Music October 2001

Guild certainly record at the right levels, which adds to the listening of CDs. The beauty of this disc is that it contains such gems as the Quatre Motets of Poulenc and other unaccompanied repertoire which the choir sings very will indeed. An unusual piece is the Gigout Rhapsodie, a lovely refreshing piece, something quite different and of which Philip Smith gets some beautiful and atmospheric sound out of organ of Exeter College, Oxford where this disc was recorded. The registration is excellent and the refrain of an extremely well known carol peeps through. This disc contains some gems not that often heard which makes it a good buy.
Patrick Mayhew