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Despite David Bednall’s acknowledged debt to past composers who have made settings of the Stabat Mater, it is clear that Herbert Howells’s version is the one to which he feels closest. This is not to suggest that Bednall is backward-looking in his musical outlook – to be sure, he is firmly embedded in the Anglican choral tradition – but, despite his adherence to a musical language rooted in tonality, he manages to offer fresh perspectives without always losing some Howellsian harmony. His Stabat Mater is an engrossing and substantial composition (it plays for almost an hour), conceived for the modest forces of girls’ upper voices, organ and violin (often representing Mary’s sorrow) from which Bednall extracts maximum emotional and dramatic effect. His 12-minute Marian Suite (conceived for Pike) and brief Ave Maria obviously complement the theme of the Stabat Mater. Regent’s open-spaced recording enhances the excellent Kent-based Beneden Chapel Choir, whose contribution is to be loudly applauded. They offer consistently natural, clear-voiced singing that brings credit to themselves and their director Edward Whiting. Bednall’s own organ playing adds further authority to a welcome release.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Choir & Organ, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing