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This CD includes one indisputable masterpiece: the Hymn to St Cecilia. Here it receives an exquisitely refined, vocally perfectly balanced reading, as one might expect from this address. The choir’s new principal conductor has this music in his bones: Justin Doyle’s judgement throughout is exceptional. He and his forces capture the celebratory nature of the popular Choral Dances from ‘Gloriana’, swinging the cross-rhythms of ‘Time’ and finding the calm in ‘Concord’. A Hymn to the Virgin from Britten’s mid-teens is beautifully poised. Less familiar will be the Five Flower Songs from 1950, far from conventional unaccompanied part-songs, and the challenging Hopkins settings, AMDG, composed in the United States in 1939 for a five-voice ensemble of which Peter Pears was a member. A disc to be warmly recommended. Only one caveat: with a playing time of 54 minutes, one feels there could have been more music included on the programme.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica


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