Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Quite by chance I came across an ad for the new King's Consort recording, I Was Glad.
I'm glad I did.
It is astounding. Anglican Evensong music as you really never imagined it, fully orchestrated and transformed from the quire to the heavens.
OK - let's get the negatives out of the way. It's not perfect. The King's Consort is a mixed choir, and more than that, at times the sopranos genuinely rejoice in their fulsome vibratos. For a purist, this can be hard to take. When you have grown up with a treble line on these pieces, there are moments when less would be more. The soprano soloist on Stanford in G is beautiful - but very much a soprano, not a treble. And almost unforgivably I'm afraid for me, the first verse of Jerusalem sounds more like a gathering of the WI than the pure spine-tingling essence of Anglican boy choirs which would have set my heart on fire along with Elgar's beautiful orchestration. Though, to be fair verse two, when the men come in, works fine.
Having said that...
The choir is gorgeous. Thrilling. Gutsy for the most part and always sounding as if they are relishing every note. A few quibbles about the odd vibrato over-spill are soon swept away as I am swept away by this glorious music revelling in full orchestration and stunningly recorded, beating me into submission.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of singing these Stanford settings, of belting out I Was Glad, of just settling back in the stalls as some nameless college choir have helped the summer sun dapple through the stained glass to transport them through the gentler ecstasies that the C of E has pretty much snagged as its own should find this recording an essential addition to their collection.
I wrote the other week, after a trip to evensong at Merton, that with music like this you are supposed to bathe in it & come out feeling cleansed by the experience. This is like bathing in liquid gold. In honey. It's the five-star spa treatment, with bathrobe and slippers thrown in. It's too much to take in at one sitting, and it's so good you can't stop yourself luxuriating in it. Turn the volume up, let the music do its work. At the end, I came away with a deep smile of satisfaction and simply wanted to press 'play' and start all over again.
I've read reviews that liken the orchestrations (of music that usually comes with proper Anglican organ restraint) to Brahms & Wagner. Perhaps. It reminded me of watching Princess Anne's wedding; back in the day when we first bought a colour TV and the world was filled with glorious new possibilities - we sat there transfixed: so this is what it's all supposed to look like! And now, I kind of feel that this is how Stanford & Parry are supposed to sound. There's a freshness, a brightness, a brilliance that in my mind I had always heard, and now my ears get to share the experience.
It's not perfect. Honestly, there are moments I need trebles on the top line. It is wonderful, and I salute Robert King and all the singers & musicians that have provided this wonder. It is a recording I shall treasure.