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Stanford: Anthems & Services/St. John’s Cambridge

David Vernier

Artistic Quality:

Sound Quality:

This is a fine collection of some of Charles Stanford’s most enduring church music, sung by one of England’s most revered choirs, itself a staple of the country’s choral music tradition for more than 300 years. However, there are many fine recordings of Stanford church music in the CD catalog, also sung by superlative choirs steeped in the English cathedral repertoire–choirs from Chichester, Durham, and Portsmouth (all on Priory Records), the Cambridge Singers (Collegium), and Trinity College, Cambridge (Hyperion, etc.), among others–and so, the question is, if you’re looking to acquaint yourself with this beautiful and beloved music, would this be a good place to begin? And the answer is yes, but with the caution that although these performances are not collectively the best, they nevertheless offer faithful, conscientious, well-mannered interpretations that fully honor the substance and style of Stanford’s scores.

The service music comes off best, owing to the power of the organ accompaniments and the choir’s strongly projected and well articulated statements. The famous Three Latin Motets, staples of concert choir performances all over the world, seem overly reserved and lacking the punch we usually hear–and expect–from these richly expressive pieces. The Communion Service in C is a gem (minus the cumbersome Credo–a text that absolutely defies elegant musical setting), and the choir–probably the most vocally well-integrated of all of England’s all-male ensembles–proves its reportorial command as well as its vocal prowess. Sonically, I have no serious complaints–except that I had to turn the volume up higher than my usual listening level to clearly hear and get the full effect of the unaccompanied motets.

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Motets: Cambridge Singers (Collegium), Service music: Durham & Chichester Cathedrals (Priory)

CHARLES VILLIERS STANFORD - Anthems & Services--including Morning, Evening, & Communion Service in C Op. 115; Evening Service in G Op. 81; For lo, I raise up Op. 145; Three Latin motets

  • Record Label: Naxos - 8.555794
  • Medium: CD

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