Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
The Choir of King's College, Cambridge joins forces with the Britten Sinfonia, Ailish Tynan and Roderick Williams for this album of two popular choral works, Ralph Vaughan Williams' 'Dona Nobis Pacem' and Leonard Bernstein's 'Chichester Psalms'. Both are recorded in orchestrations for smaller forces to match the size of the Chapel Choir: the 'Dona Nobis Pacem' is presented here in a brand-new arrangement for small orchestra, commissioned for this recording, resulting in an intimate performance that brings new and different colours to Vaughan Williams' work. The 'Chichester Psalms' is performed in Bernstein's own orchestration for organ, harp and percussion, and both performances include the recently-restored Harrison & Harrison organ in King's College Chapel, played by Richard Gowers and Henry Websdale. Baritone Roderick Williams, who received an OBE in June 2017 for services to music, and soprano Ailish Tynan join as 'Dona Nobis Pacem' soloists, while the treble solo in the 'Chichester Psalms' is sung here by 11-year-old chorister George Hill. The recording is accompanied by a specially-commissioned essay by Edward Allen on these two "peace works" and an analysis of the new orchestration. In recognition of the American connections in both works - those of Bernstein and 'Dona Nobis Pacem' poet Walt Whitman - the album is also available with a free download of 'The Road Home' by the contemporary American composer Stephen Paulus. This reviewer is fond of the music of RVW and was pleasantly surprised at how well 'Dona Nobis Pacem' sits with the more modernistic 'Chichester Psalms'. As we have come to expect, the musicianship from King's is of the highest standard and the clarity of the recording, made in the famous Chapel of King's College, Cambridge, is also first class. Even if you already have recordings of either works the quality of this one is good enough to deserve being heard and you may find the new orchestrations serve to bring out the force of the message even better. Sometimes less is indeed more.
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