Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924) = Choral Music – Trinity College Choir Cambridge, Owain Park and Alexander Hamilton, organists / Trinity Brass / Stephen Layton (cond.) Hyperion

Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924) = Choral Music – Trinity College Choir Cambridge / Owain Park and Alexander Hamilton, organists / Trinity Brass / Stephen Layton (conductor) Hyperion CDA68174 (6/30/17) TT: 81:02 ****:

A fine recording and performance of Anglican Music by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford

What a nice CD from Hyperion, celebrating the music of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. Stanford was arguably the most famous Irish composer before independence. Born into a musical family, he began his musical education in 1870 at Cambridge, and later at Trinity College. As a teacher, he could proudly count among his students Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, John Ireland among many others.

The program on this disc spans a wide range of Stanford’s Anglican Choral music. This is a highly listenable album, with quiet contemplative tunes along with some stunning and inspiring dynamic music.

The recording, in the Hereford Cathedral and in the Trinity College Chapel is a fine one, with excellent dynamic range and deep, deep organ pedals. The combination of voice, organ and brass makes for a potent brew, and the recording and performances  simply can’t be faulted.

Musical highlights for me include the Fantasia and Toccata for organ, which includes a powerful  contribution from organist Owain Park and the disc ends with an unimpeachable performance of St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

Stanford was tremendously influential, leaving us a rich collection of choral and symphonic music that includes 7 symphonies, but his richest contributions and the more lasting of his music are his choral works to be performed in church in the Anglican tradition.

This CD is an excellent survey of this music, and it’s a worthwhile listen and highly recommended.

—Mel Martin

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