Magazine article Gramophone

Musica Beata in Choral Songs from England

Magazine article Gramophone

Musica Beata in Choral Songs from England

Article excerpt

'Songs of Springtime'

J Bennet All creatures now Elgar Three Choral Songs, Op 18. How calmly the evening. The Shower, Op 71 No 1 Moeran Songs of Springtime Pearsall Lay a garland (a) Stanford My love's an arbutus. Peace, come away. Phoebe Vaughan Williams Three Shakespeare Songs

Musica Beata/Peter Hanke, (a) Paul Hedley

Acclaim (F) APCD4012 (53' * DDD)

The 20 tracks on this secular Anglo-Irish part-song anthology provided the perfect aural backdrop to the patches of snowdrops and crocuses which have recently burst forth from my wintry, waterlogged flowerbeds. Ranging from the polyphonic richness of Bennet's Elizabethan madrigal All creatures now to the 'other-worldly' and (still startlingly) original Three Shakespeare Songs of Vaughan Williams, this album's themes are predominantly those of beauty, nature, life and love.

The half-dozen composers represented here respond to a wide spectrum of emotions. Stanford's superficial charm, for example in My love's an arbutus, doesn't completely hide a powerful response to the text. His impeccable craftsmanship in Phoebe and Peace, come away is also perfectly judged. Elgar fares equally well. It is good to have the complete Op 18 Choral Songs. The basses bloom is especially fine here, providing a firm foundation for a refined though closely recorded vocal blend.

The undoubted highlight of the disc is Moeran's sublime Songs of Springtime, composed in 1929, soon after his Eynsford sojourn with Philip Heseltine. Their intimate scale is ideal for a choir such as the dozen or so voices of Musica Beata. …

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