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Hyperion Records

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Seated Angels with Orbs in their Hands (c1348-1354) by Ridolfo di Arpo Guariento (c1310-c1370)
Museo Civico, Padua, Italy / Alinari / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67768
Recording details: June 2009
Wells Cathedral, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: September 2010
Total duration: 13 minutes 41 seconds

'Dove's fresh, diatonic idiom is coupled to a matchless sense of word-setting … he writes most gratefully for the voice, with the intensity of Kenneth Leighton, the bravura of Britten and the timeless ecstasy of Tavener … the Wells choristers tackle everything with aplomb, élan and evident enjoyment' (Gramophone)

'Matthew Owens has clearly prepared the choir with scrupulous sensitivity, and conducts with an incisive freshness … Dove's music is splendidly effective and brightly expressive' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Wells is currently enjoying a superb top line, rewardingly displayed in this collection of Jonathan Dove's radiant choral works, including a first recording of his sparkling Missa Brevis' (The Observer)

'Wells must currently stand as England's finest cathedral choir, and its legacy of promoting contemporary church music will remain long after every treble voice here has become a baritone, tenor or bass … as it stands today, that top line has unfailing precision of pitch and unaffected beauty of tone, while the men possess the flexibility and collective musicianship to underlay that top line with impeccable textural clarity and satisfying tonal depth … few will not respond to the sparkling and angelic 'Wellcome, all wonders in one sight!' … while 'Run, shepherds, run!' … adds a moment of high drama, reminding us vividly of Dove's operatic credentials … this disc offers some moments of pure magic and many truly uplifting experiences' (International Record Review)

'Into thy hands, using as texts two 12th-century prayers, offers evidence that modern religious choral music need not descend into wince-inducing happy-clappy idiocy. Dove charms and beguiles us, and the performances by the Wells Cathedral Choir under Matthew Owens are faultless. There’s also the recording quality, with the cathedral acoustic offering just enough reverberance to give the voices a heavenly glow' (TheArtsDesk.com)

Missa brevis
composer
2009; commissioned by the Cathedral Organists' Association and first performed at their May 2009 conference in Wells by Wells Cathedral Choir under Matthew Owens
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

Kyrie  [3'35] GreekEnglish
Gloria  [3'50] LatinEnglish

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Missa brevis was commissioned by the Cathedral Organists’ Association for their conference in Wells Cathedral in May 2009 and first performed by the cathedral choir under Matthew Owens’s direction. There were various stipulations which Dove was required to address: the music should be challenging, but not be out of the reach of a good church choir; it should be interesting but accessible; it should be economical in its proportions; and it should be in Latin accompanied by organ. At the first performance it was immediately recognized that Dove had judged the work perfectly. (As stipulated by the commission, the composer had not published a liturgical Mass before.) Twenty-five cathedral organists signed up at the conference to perform the new work and many joined their number soon afterwards.

The Kyrie is rather different from Dove’s normal practice. There is more linear development, more polyphony and a greater development to a moment of climax close to the end. The organ part is minimal and uses the sustained-chord device to bind the short vocal phrases together. The effective cluster chords and their formation are reminiscent of Kenneth Leighton’s organ writing. The Gloria is something of a moto perpetuo with the organ setting up a rhythmically dancing figure in the opening bars. The choir sings short phrases in a variety of dynamics which don’t let up on the rhythmic excitement until the words ‘Agnus Dei, Filius Patris. Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis’ allow the tension to relax even though the organ keeps up the constant motion underneath. A spectacular climax is reached at ‘Jesu Christe’ (at the words ‘Tu solus altissimus, Jesu Christe’), where Dove brilliantly throws the music into D flat major, from an A major tonality, after which the movement dances to a brilliant ending. The Sanctus & Benedictus carries on the dance in a 5/8 ‘spirited’ setting. There are some similarities with Britten’s Missa brevis in the way the organ chords build up before the choral entry. However, where Britten leads straight into bell-like writing, Dove begins with a chordal outburst for the word ‘Sanctus’ and reserves his bell-like choral writing for the words ‘Dominus Deus Sabaoth’. The Hosanna at the end brings back the opening chords of the movement. The Agnus Dei is formed over an organ pedal point with a held low E and A which moves only twice during the movement, cleverly ratcheting up the tension with minimal fuss but maximum effect. After six bars of organ introduction (a short figure played by the right hand prepares us for the choral entry) the choir sings short chordal phrases. The introductory organ material is reduced to four bars for the next choral entry and the first pedal point move. After this the organ’s material is reduced further to two bars and the climactic pedal point shift to C and G with the choir singing the final ‘Agnus Dei’ strongly before subsiding into a mantra-like repetition of the words ‘dona nobis pacem’. It is a most beautiful and effective movement.

from notes by Paul Spicer © 2010

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