Lennox & Michael Berkeley, The Marian Consort, David Wordsworth - Stabat Mater

Published Sunday 30th October 2016
Lennox & Michael Berkeley, The Marian Consort, David Wordsworth - Stabat Mater
Lennox & Michael Berkeley, The Marian Consort, David Wordsworth  - Stabat Mater

STYLE: Choral
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 163446-24668
LABEL: Delphian DCD34180

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

This release on Delphian Records is a rare gem: a premiere recording from one of the 20th century's greatest British composers, whose entire catalogue is otherwise already committed to disc. Lennox Berkeley (1903-1989) wrote his setting of the Stabat Mater for six voices and chamber ensemble during one of the most fertile and inspired periods of his compositional life. An undiscovered masterpiece, and until now the last of his major works to go unrecorded, it was written for a concert tour by his friend Benjamin Britten's English Opera Group; hence the unusual but effective scoring for six solo voices and 12 instrumentalists. The Marian Consort - with five discs of early music to their credit - now show their versatility in a cappella and accompanied music by both Lennox and his son Michael Berkeley (born 1948). They are partnered in the larger works by the Berkeley Ensemble, whose performances are enriched by their intimate knowledge of these composers' music. The same can be said of conductor David Wordsworth, who has known and worked with both composers and who here fulfils a long-cherished ambition to direct this important addition to the catalogue. The singing is outstanding with countertenor and director of The Marian Consort Rory McCleery and bass Nick Ashby being particularly easy on the ear but there are no weak links in either the vocal or instrumental departments and the sound quality is also excellent. All of Lennox Berkeley's texts are Latin with a translation provided in the CD booklet. Michael's contribution from 2005, the fascinating "Touch Light" for soprano, countertenor and string quintet, is in English and another premiere recording that is well worth hearing. Listeners with any interest in 20th century British choral music will be pleased to hear this release and as an introduction to two of the giants of British composition of recent years this is no bad place to start.

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