Church musicians, especially of the Anglican/Episcopal persuasion, should be happy that there's at least one person out there writing first-rate, functional, and very accessible (in the best sense) anthems and service music–music that dedicated, competent choirs and organists can perform to a high standard. Some listeners may recognize Grayston Ives (nom de plume of Bill Ives) for his years (in the 1980s) with the King's Singers where he both sang and contributed as an arranger.
Handel's Coronation Anthems were written in 1727 for George II and Queen Caroline, and have been performed at every British coronation since that occasion. Zadok the Priest will be familiar from its use in the film The Madness of King George. Handel's arpeggiated suspensions in the strings build excitement from the outset, but the entrance of the choir and full orchestra is shattering beyond expectations.
The Keble College Choir release their new CD today, entitled Ceremonial Oxford: Music for the Georgian University by William Hayes. The project is a collaboration between the Choir, under Music Director Matthew Martin, and period instrument ensemble Instruments of Time & Truth. The recording is already garnering rave reviews, including a five-star rating in Early Music Review.
The music of the sixteenth-century composer Palestrina is still today at the heart of many of the Roman Catholic services sung all around the world. The congregation at Westminster Cathedral is particularly fortunate to hear on a regular basis this inspirational music sung by one of the finest choirs in the world, and this album focuses on music for Whitsuntide.
Allegri's early Baroque masterpiece Miserere from around 1630 movingly juxtaposes modal chant with tonality, and was so popular that the Vatican refused to allow it to be performed anywhere else - until the 14 year old Mozart broke the Vatican's monopoly by writing it down from memory after attending a performance. Pergolesi's late Baroque masterpiece Stabat Mater for soprano and alto dates from 1736, the year of his death at the age of 26. It was originally written for male voices but since it's hard to find a castrato these days, it's generally performed by two women or by a female soprano and counter-tenor. This performance uses a female alto but in other respects it's very much a period performance - the sound is intimate and the tempos are lively without any sacrifice of spiritual depth. The soloists, soprano Monika Frimmer and alto Gloria Banditelli, sing beautifully without overdoing the vibrato, and their voices are well matched. The disk also contains a brief "Sonata a quattro" by Vivaldi, and another setting of the Stabat Mater, by the late Baroque composer Antonio Caldara from around 1725.(Kenneth Dorter)