Howard Blake, London Voices, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - The Passion Of Mary

Published Wednesday 16th June 2010
Howard Blake, London Voices, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - The Passion Of Mary
Howard Blake, London Voices, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - The Passion Of Mary

STYLE: Choral
RATING 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
LABEL: Naxos 8572453

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

Howard Blake (born 1938) is best known for one piece, the perennial favourite, 'The Snowman' but he has been a prolific writer in a variety of genres and here, on a generously priced CD, we have two excellent works both of which should be of interest. We start with 'The Passion of Mary', written in 2006. This tells the greatest story ever told from the perspective of the mother of our Lord sung by the inestimable Patricia Rozario (soprano) who makes some very tricky music sound effortless. Other soloists are the composer's son Robert William Blake (treble) as the young Jesus, Richard Edgar-Wilson (tenor) as Jesus the man, and David Wilson-Johnson (bass-baritone) as narrator and also a suitably demonic Satan. part one covers the "Visitation, Nativity, and Childhood" and is suitably restrained and reflective but when we reach part two, which covers the ministry of Jesus, the pace picks up. Texts here are sung in English and taken from the Gospels. The Temptation scene is memorable and by the time we reach the Crucifixion we are on the edge of our seats, even though we know what is to happen. The orchestration is gripping and reminds us that Blake often writes soundtracks; we can see everything through our ears. Then we shift to Latin for a sublime "Stabat Mater Dolorosa" and the concluding "Salve Regina" leaves us on our feet demanding more or - more appropriately - on our knees thanking God. This is simply glorious. And there is more as those kind people at Naxos give us "Four Songs of the Nativity" written in 1990. The texts are from the Penguin Medieval English Verse and although the music is appropriate all four pieces sound fresh and would make lovely additions to any choir's seasonal repertoire. This is a splendid release and is thoroughly recommended.

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