GMCD 7226 – O Magnum Mysterium – Christmas Music and Chorals
The Choir of Lincoln College Oxford, Tom Lydon – Conductor, Philip Smith – Organ
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.