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There is sweet music

English choral songs, 1890–1950

The Cambridge Singers
John Rutter (conductor)

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English choral songs, 1890-1950.

Featuring masterpieces by Benjamin Britten (Five Flower Songs), Vaughan Williams (Three Shakespeare Songs), Stanford, Delius and Elgar alongside folk-song arrangements by Bairstow, Chapman, Grainger, Holst, Moeran and Stanford, this collection highlights a golden age of the English part-song, now somewhat neglected but nonetheless offering many gem-like compositions worthy of re-investigation.

Track list

  1. The Blue Bird (Stanford)
  2. Two Unaccompanied Partsongs: To be sung on a summer night on the water (I) (Delius)
  3. Two Unaccompanied Partsongs: To be sung on a summer night on the water (II) (Delius)
  4. There is sweet music (Elgar)
  5. My love dwelt in a Northern land (Elgar)
  6. Three Shakespeare Songs: Full fathom five (Vaughan Williams)
  7. Three Shakespeare Songs: The cloud-capped towers (Vaughan Williams)
  8. Three Shakespeare Songs: Over hill, over dale (Vaughan Williams)
  9. The sailor and young Nancy (arr. Moeran)
  10. Brigg Fair (arr. Grainger)
  11. Londonderry air (arr. Grainger)
  12. The three ravens (arr. Edward T. Chapman)
  13. My sweetheart's like Venus (arr. Holst)
  14. The oak and the ash (arr. Bairstow)
  15. Quick! We have but a second (arr. Stanford)
  16. Five Flower Songs: To daffodils (Britten)
  17. Five Flower Songs: The succession of the four sweet months (Britten)
  18. Five Flower Songs: Marsh flowers (Britten)
  19. Five Flower Songs: The evening primrose (Britten)
  20. Five Flower Songs: Ballad of green broom (Britten)

“a flawless performance by a perfectly balanced group of singers… These performers hold you entranced” Digital Audio

“I have rarely been so stunned by the opening track of a disc before … the choir displays the most amazing discipline in their control of diction, dynamic grading and attack … I eagerly await to hear more from this partnership” Hi-Fi News Record of the Month

“A cleverly-chosen and beautifully performed album very well recorded …” Music and Musicians

“[recorded] with an expertise matching that of this talented group of singers … The control exhibited by this choir is remarkable and the quality of the voices outstanding” Gramophone

“These performances are a joy to listen to” BBC Record Review

“I have rarely been so stunned by the opening track of a disc before.  The performance of Stanford’s Blue Bird here attains the sublime, and one hardly dares breathe for fear of disturbing the atmosphere or missing some subtle nuance of colour or phrasing. Whilst the extreme technical skill of the Cambridge Singers is not foremost in the mind when listening, it certainly gives food for thought long afterwards: at times the sopranos have a purity and freshness of tone akin to that of boy trebles, yet they blend into the wonderfully mellow sound created by the alto and male voices with no difficulty; at all times the choir displays the most amazing discipline in their control of diction, dynamic grading and attack, and maintains an outstandingly consistent quality of intonation and chordal balance. I am equally enthusiastic about the recording.  I eagerly wait to hear more from this partnership.” Hi-Fi News Record of the Month

“You could stop this disc after the first selection and feel satisfied.  The Blue Bird, a breathtaking four-minute work by Charles Villiers Stanford, has that effect, but only when given a flawless performance by a perfectly balanced group of singers.  John Rutter and his Cambridge Singers give us just that and more, because this CD contains a total of 20 beautifully performed selections, ranging from Delius’ Two unaccompanied Part Songs to Vaughan Williams’ Three Shakespeare Songs, to Benjamin Britten’s Five Flower Songs. Discipline, sense of style, precision, musicality – all these terms characterize Rutter’s ensemble as they wend their way through some of England’s finest choral music.  These performers hold you entranced as they perfectly execute the ending of Elgar’s My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land and follow with the discordant ringing of the bells in Vaughan Williams’ Full Fathom Five.” Digital Audio

“Opening with an enchanting performance of Stanford’s The Blue Bird and followed equally expressive accounts of Delius’ two wordless summer evocations, this most attractive recital ranges from Elgar and Vaughan Williams, both offering splendid performances, to various arrangements of folk-songs, less fashionable today than they once were, but giving much pleasure here.  The recording, made in the Great Hall of University College, London, has an almost ideal ambience: words are clear, yet the vocal timbre is full and natural.  A highly recommendable anthology.” Penguin Guide to Compact Discs

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