Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810–1876) has been acknowledged as the foremost church composer of the mid-nineteenth century. A prolific composer and leading organist, he secured a great number of prestigious appointments. The Evening Canticles in E major, composed whilst he was organist at Leeds Parish Church between 1841 and 1844, are a towering monument in the history of English church music. Although its sheer physical size has restricted frequency of performance in a liturgical context, Wesley’s Service became a direct model for church composers later in the century. In his hands, the familiar texts became vehicles for a whole new wealth of expression and imagination. Yet, for all his boldness in the treatment of key relationships and in his rather liberated writing for the organ (which was an innovation of some considerable importance on his part), he never strayed from his impeccable accuracy with regard to word-setting. This Service bears all the hallmarks of his art: sweeping melodies, rich harmonies, grand climaxes and above all, a supreme confidence in the handling of vocal textures.
from notes by Sarah Langdon © 1987