“Canticles” – St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir/ Andrew Carwood/ Simon Johnson, organ – Hyperion

“Canticles” – St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir/ Andrew Carwood/ Simon Johnson, organ – Hyperion CDA68058, 62:48 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

A canticle is a fixed psalm or other biblical text—and sometimes a combination of texts—that is used to reflect the normal liturgical cycle of any particular day. The Anglican Church under Thomas Cranmer’s revision in his Book of Common Prayer uses many of the most ancient ones though there are not that many; since that time numerous additions have been made in the Roman and Orthodox churches (though the latter doesn’t refer to them by that name) and there is really not a tradition of composers “setting” the music in such a way that the Anglican service allows for them. But their tradition is quite varied and rich in the number of composers who have written them, and here we have some of the standard issuances of the early 19th through mid-20th centuries.

The names are pretty much familiar to most music lovers, though there are two that are by contemporary composers continuing the trend, Malcolm Archer (former director of music at St. Paul’s Cathedral before assuming duties as Director of Chapel Music and Organist at Winchester College) and Alec Roth (now a freelance composer formerly head of the Baylis Program at the English National Opera, among other positions) who have written appropriate and devotional pieces fully in conformity with the rather stylistically elastic tradition. All of the other works, some more notable that others, fit the resonant and highly-difficult acoustics of St. Paul’s which are here delineated by the Hyperion engineers to a wonderful degree. Andrew Carwood (yes, that Andrew Carwood) was appointed Director of Music at St. Paul’s in 2007, and brings a rigorous authority to the performance of these pieces, rendered nicely by the Cathedral Choir.

TrackList:

Archer, M: Benedicite, omnia opera
Gray, Alan: Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis in F minor
Roth, A: Jubilate
Stanford: Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis in B flat, Op. 10
Tippett: Magnificat & Nunc dimittis (Collegium Sancti Johannis Cantabrigiense)
Walmisley: Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in D Minor
Walton: Coronation Te Deum
Wood, C: Magnificat and Nunc dimittis (Collegium Regale)

—Steven Ritter

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