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This disc is a fitting tribute to Philip Cannon, who died last year. Cannon, who spent 35 years as a much-loved and occasionally eccentric composition teacher at the Royal College of Music, emerged in the 1950s as a writer of distinctive music in all genres. Lord of Light (1980) is a major work, the result of a commission from the Three Choirs Festival; this recording is the BBC’s broadcast of the premiere. Lasting for almost 40 minutes, it is an impressive achievement involving three soloists, boys’ choir, mixed chorus and large orchestra. The BBC tape has worn well, given the passage of time. The three soloists are all excellent and fearless in the face of some extremely high-lying writing, especially for the soprano and tenor (the ever-reliable Kenneth Bowen). The large amateur Festival chorus has obviously been well rehearsed and makes its presence felt, though occasionally the acoustics of Gloucester Cathedral deaden the final ounce of bite to their sound. The String Quartet (1964) and the early French settings for soprano and harp (1952) are more than mere fillers. The quartet is a fine piece, dissonant and dramatic, while the evocative French settings are of interest not only because they are sung here by the great Welsh soprano Dame Margaret Price close to the start of what proved to be an illustrious career.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica

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