Recorded in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral, the Cambridge Singers under the direction of John Rutter produced a duo of discs dedicated to Music of the English Church previously issued as two separate discs, 'Hail, Gladdening Light', and its companion piece, 'Faire is the Heaven'. The discs here are straight copies of those discs; hence, if you have those already, there is no need to purchase this - on the other hand, if you do not have the other discs, this is a bargain.
This is all unaccompanied music, sung in a cathedral chapel acoustically suited for such music. The first disc has four primary sections: Music of the Latin Rite; Music of the Reformation; Music of the Restoration; and Anglican Revival and the twentieth century. The most famous composers in English music history -- Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons -- combine with later masters such as Purcell, Stanford, Howells, Walton, Britten and Vaughan Williams to form a truly masterful collection. These are anthems, hymns and other liturgical pieces that have remained important in Anglican worship, and can be often heard in situ on Sundays around the world. However, the Cambridge Singers bring their special music talent to the task, producing a good standard bearer for music of the English Church.
On the second disc, there are six Latin motets, set by composers such as Taverner, Howells, Stanford, Vaughan Williams, Philips and Dering. Anthens and Introits include notables Tomkins and Purcell, and lesser-known composers such as Amner, Bairstow and Goss. Hymns span the range from old to modern, including a hymn by John Rutter himself. The disc ends with three prayer settings, including one by the underappreciated John Sheppard, and another from William Harris, whose hymn serves as the title to the companion disc. These anthems and hymns show a powerful range of music, yet show a consistent tone also that makes it rather distinctive of the music of the English church.
The group's power and grace is second to none, particularly when singing this kind of music in a place such as Ely Cathedral, arguably the most natural of settings possible.
The notes for this recording include the titles and words of each anthem or hymn. The notes for each piece also includes brief biographical information of the composer, and unique information about each work, when particular composers are represented more than once. One thing conspicuously missing is much biographical information about John Rutter, or any descriptive information about the Cambridge Singers apart from the most basic of information.
Rutter was born in London and educated at Clare College, Cambridge. This was where his career as a composer, arranger and conductor began. His early work was with groups at King's College Chapel at Cambridge as well as the Bath Choir and Philharmonic Orchestra. He has worked for the BBC providing music for educational series such as 'The Archaeology of the Bible Lands', until in 1979 he began forming the Cambridge Singers, and has continued a remarkable career of performance and recording as their director ever since.
--The Cambridge Singers--
The Cambridge Singers are a mixed choir of voices, many of whom were members of choir of Rutter's college, Clare College, Cambridge. While they specialise in English and Latin liturgical pieces, they have a wide range of recordings that span from modern compositions (including a remarkable requiem by Rutter) to English folk songs of the Middle Ages. Many are former members of the choir of Clare College and other Cambridge collegiate choirs (hence the name, Cambridge Singers). In the quarter-century since the founding, the Cambridge Singers have produced an impressive body of recordings.
on August 17, 2000
This pair of CDs is a beautifully-recorded collection of songs and hymns -- unaccompanied choral music of Howells, Tallis, Vaughan Williams, Purcell, and several other composers. The material will be particularly familiar to Anglican and Episcopal churchgoers and is a peaceful, well-presented demonstration of the choral composition skills of these English composers. The liner notes accompanying the set are extremely thorough and include translations from the Latin as needed.
on April 20, 2004
This is a re-release, as one set, of two of my favorite CDs ever: "Faire is the Heaven" and "Hail Gladdening Light" by the Cambridge singers. This is a fabulous compilation of everyone's favorite works from the English Cathedral tradition, all the way from Taverner (16th century) to Tavener (21st century). The selection of works is great and touches all the most important genres. The performance is exquisite, elegant, faultless. The Cambridge Singers have a softer, less edgy sound than the Tallis Scholars, and are more expressive, which may make them easier for some people to listen to, especially for the more recent works. They are no less musical. The Parsons Ave Maria alone brings one to tears. If you want an introduction to English church music, this is the CD to start with. Also makes a great gift, if you already love this music and want to introduce someone else to it.
on November 14, 2003
This two-CD set is titled accurately; these are "treasures" of English sacred music. The performance by the Cambridge singers is quite excellent. The liner notes praise the "unequaled acoustic" of the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral, and based on this recording, I cannot argue. The a cappela singing is lush but clear, and the choir's careful diction is easily heard.
The selection includes pieces that will be familiar to fans of English church music, and some that will be less familiar. Happily for me, the pieces that were new to me have become my favorites; there are no weak tracks; nothing to skip past. Over two hours of beautiful music . I strongly recommend this recording.