PRAISE TO THE HOLIEST: Hymns from Saint Paul’s Parish, Washington, DC

Review by: ClassicsToday

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Don’t let the title fool you, for this is not mere Sunday morning hymn singing. Each hymn here marries a cited verse to a popular hymn tune, with most referenced in the program notes to the Episcopal hymnals of 1940 or 1962. Yet some are simple and take three minutes or less to perform, while others are set forth as hymn fantasias of six to 14 minutes where the choir might sing a verse with brass, followed by an elaborate an organ improvisation, succeeded by an a cappella choral verse, and so on. Two titles will be of interest to all classical music listeners. The first is “I vow to thee, my country”, set to the hymn tune Thaxted, which will be better known to most readers as the main theme from the “Jupiter” movement of Holst’s The Planets. It begins here with the chorus, organ, and side drum capped by an ethereal trumpet obbligato, then progresses through different, incredibly beautiful harmonic treatments. The second piece, “O love how deep, how broad, how high”, is set to the famous Agincourt Hymn and performed by chorus and brass with an extremely imaginative military drum accompaniment that reminds us of Henry V’s victory over the French–and event that probably inspired the hymn tune’s composition. The performances are first-rate and the sound of the boy chorus rivals that heard on English recordings. It is no mean feat to record such large forces–chorus, brass, organ, and percussion–but producer/engineer Frederick Hohmann has pulled off a miracle, resulting in a rich, resonant recording just one point short of perfect. This is a wonderful, spiritual, and inspiring CD.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: PRAISE TO THE HOLIEST: Hymns from Saint Paul's Parish, Washington, DC
Reference Recording: none

VARIOUS - The strife is o'er, the battle done; The King of Love, My Shepherd is; O blest Creator of the Light; He is risen! He is Risen!; O Gladsome light; 7 others

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