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Hyperion Records

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St Peter enthroned as Pope, initial from the Litlyngton Missal (1383/4).
Westminster Abbey Library / Copyright © Dean and Chapter of Westminster
Track(s) taken from CDA67770
Recording details: February 2009
Westminster Abbey, London, United Kingdom
Produced by David Trendell
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: August 2010
Total duration: 10 minutes 50 seconds

'A sumptuous banquet of choral delight awaits the hungry listener, laid out in three carefully balanced courses, to be savoured slowly, the whole programme sung and played with superlative skill … James O'Donnell, his Westminster musicians and the Hyperion team have produced another jewel of a disc' (Gramophone)

'The choir sounds best in Stanford's quintessentially Anglican Service in B flat and in Walton's The Twelve (1965) to a text by Auden. Its flamboyant organ part and fugal 'Twelve as the winds and the months' finale are intriguin and uplifting' (The Observer)

'This superb CD … now that sung Matins is virtually extinct in all but the most august establishments, Stanford's Te Deum and Jubilate from his B flat Service have become comparative rarities, and they make a terrific impact here, organ and choir combining with exultant, spine-tingling resonance … this is cathedral choral singing at its finest and most inspiring' (The Daily Telegraph)

'This glorious disc from Hyperion, celebrating what the Abbey choir is all about … the centrepiece of the disc is Byrd's glorious Mass for five voices, superbly delivered in a performance of outstanding clarity and sensitivity under James O'Donnell … Dupré adds his gloss to a Bach cantata movement to provide Robert Quinney and the Abbey organ a magnificent showpiece with which to round off this sumptuous musical feast with suitable exuberance … Hyperion's excellent recording perfectly captures the unique atmosphere. It's as good as being there—without the babble of tourists' (International Record Review)

The Twelve
First line:
Without arms or charm of culture
commissioned by Cuthbert Simpson, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and first performed there on 16 May 1965 under the direction of Sydney Watson; orchestrated by Walton for the 900th celebrations of Westminster Abbey in January 1966
author of text
commissioned by Cuthbert Simpson, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, at the same time as Walton's music; the text as set differs in several places from the version of the poem subsequently published

Other recordings available for download
Polyphony, Stephen Layton (conductor), James Vivian (organ)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
William Walton’s The Twelve is one of the relatively few works intended for liturgical use for which both music and text were commissioned together. In this case, the idea arose in 1964 when the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, Cuthbert Simpson, invited two of the college’s most celebrated alumni to collaborate on a new anthem. The substantial, eleven-minute work that resulted was first performed in Christ Church Cathedral in May 1965 under the direction of Sydney Watson. The composer had earlier expressed the opinion that W H Auden’s text was ‘obscure and difficult to set’, but in truth Walton frequently had similar problems with texts and often found that inspiration came slowly. Happily in this case he successfully overcame the difficulties, producing a work of exceptional musical and emotional scope and variety that seems to raise its sights rather beyond the world of the church anthem and towards the cantata. Walton also surely does justice to what is generally thought to be a highly imaginative and resourceful poetic text. Among the highpoints are the beautiful central duet (‘O Lord, my God, Though I forsake Thee Forsake me not’), and the exuberant fugal finale (‘Twelve as the winds and the months’). The striking opening passage for solo baritone is typical of Walton’s imaginative writing for solo voices throughout. It also features a notably virtuosic organ part. The composer subsequently orchestrated the anthem for use in the 900th anniversary celebrations of Westminster Abbey in January 1966.

from notes by James O'Donnell © 2010

Other albums featuring this work
'Walton: Coronation Te Deum & other choral works' (CDA67330)
Walton: Coronation Te Deum & other choral works

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