National Youth Choir of Scotland, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Christopher - Cantos Sagrados

Published Thursday 14th January 2021
National Youth Choir of Scotland, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Christopher - Cantos Sagrados
National Youth Choir of Scotland, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Christopher - Cantos Sagrados

STYLE: Choral
RATING 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
LABEL: Signum Classics SIGCD604

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

In 2004 Signum Classics released an exciting CD entitled 'Cantos Sagrados', a collection of choral music by James MacMillan performed very ably by The Elysian Singers. In 2020 the same piece gave its title to another CD, this time a multi-composer collection performed by the National Youth Choir Of Scotland and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Christopher Bell. MacMillan's mini cantata from 1989 "Cantos Sagrados" is well worth hearing, being an impassioned plea for justice for the victims of tyrannous dictatorships as articulated by the liberation theologians. Text and music fit well together and blend contemporary poems with parts of the traditional Latin liturgy. It is powerful, moving and I should think very difficult to sing yet the NYCS give a mature performance with a powerful accompaniment from the RSNO. An excellent opening to a varied programme that, like "Cantos Sagrados", blends both sacred and secular. Eric Whitacre contributes two compositions, the brilliantly bonkers "Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine" and the heart-rending "When David Heard" that is taken from the Bible story of King David whose favourite son Absalom rebelled against him. David gave orders that the boy was to be taken alive but the order was disobeyed and David was heartbroken. Thea Musgrave gives us four quirky miniatures taken from those poems that used to be displayed in the carriages of underground trains. Once you have heard "The Subway Piranhas" you will never sit down on the Tube again. Moving on, the Estonian composer Eriks Esenvalds has made a lovely arrangement of "Amazing Grace" written, he tells us, with Whitney Houston in mind. Kirsty Hobkirk provides the alto solo and while she may not be Miss Houston it matters not at all as she is a more than adequate replacement. Indeed, the quality of all the soloists is noteworthy. On Michael Tippett's "Five Spirituals From A Child Of Our Time" I had to check that the choir had not brought in guest soloists as all are outstanding and while all deserve a name check it is baritone Ross Cumming that tops them all. The disc closes with a lovely setting of "Ave Maria" by Franz Biebl. I first came across this arrangement on a recoding by the American choir Chanticleer and it quickly became my favourite version of a piece that can sometimes be a little bit cliched. Here the NYCS make it their own and if you have yet to hear this classic now would be a very good time to make its better acquaintance. Outstanding singing and an interesting programme. What are you waiting for?

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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