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Hyperion Records

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The Adoration of the Magi (tapestry made by William Morris & Co) by Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898)
Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDH55443
Recording details: February 2001
St Paul's Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: January 2002
Total duration: 14 minutes 54 seconds

'Luminous with a sense of goodness and well-being, brightest and best of choral records for the last many months … a distinguished record' (Gramophone)

‘Fascinatingly diverse anthology … a tonal brightness and rhythmic vitality that sparkle with festive brilliance’ (BBC Music Magazine)

‘This series is the richest treasure trove an Anglican musician or English choral buff could hope to find. Texts and notes are an Anglophile’s dream. Sound is stunningly rich and ringing’ (American Record Guide)

‘The eclectic and thoughtful repertoire mix make for compelling listening … warmly recommended’ (Classic FM Magazine)

‘The choral tone is pleasant, the soloists are well chosen, and the recorded balance keeps everything in perspective’ (Fanfare, USA)

'Hurrah for John Scott and St Paul's, who with this wonderful CD remind all how glorious the Epiphany repertoire is … every piece is approached as if it were the finest thing ever written, and joy is taken in rendering the simple beautiful … let us rejoice at the richness of this programme' (Organists' Review)

‘Seventy-two minutes of utter bliss. This is a disc of St Paul’s and the Hyperion team at their best. Organ and choir make an impact and what a magnificent sequence of music! … this is one of the finest discs I have heard in a long time and I have not stopped playing it’ (Cathedral Music)

‘There is much of merit here, and those who collect St Paul’s and church music in general won’t go far wrong with this one’ (The Delian)

Ascribe unto the Lord
composer
1853; from the collection Twelve Anthems
author of text
Psalm 96: 7-10, 2, 3, 5; Psalm 115: 4-8, 3, 12-15

Other recordings available for download
Worcester Cathedral Choir, Donald Hunt (conductor), Adrian Partington (organ)
Introduction
Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810–1876) was the illegitimate son of Samuel Wesley (1766–1837) and Sarah Suter, who had been his housekeeper. Suter bore him several children and their relationship out of wedlock continued because of Samuel’s addiction to the unorthodox views on marriage held by Martin Madan, the minister of the then-fashionable non-conformist Lock Chapel. Despite the stigma attached to being illegitimate—a very considerable burden at the turn of the nineteenth century—Samuel Sebastian was to become the most important English church composer between Purcell and Stanford.

Wesley took his middle name from his father’s love of Bach’s music and is known to have been ‘saturated with old-time ideas, clinging even to the long-condemned and barbarous system for tuning in unequal temperament’ (Audsley). Wesley’s old-fashioned ideas may well have been a saving grace as far as his compositions are concerned. Trends in anthem-writing at the end of the eighteenth century had shown a tendency towards deteriorating taste; many anthems were multi-sectional, intent merely on showing off the merits of individual singers. S S Wesley composed using the multi-sectional formats he had inherited, although the individual sections show a greater measure of structural integrity.

This is well illustrated in the anthem Ascribe unto the Lord (one of the Twelve Anthems published in 1853), where the frivolity of operatic solos, exemplified in Travers’s anthem of the same name, give way to quasi recitativo sections written on a broad canvas, clearly proclaiming the text. The opening of Wesley’s anthem is bold and authoritative, leading to one of the glories of English nineteenth-century church music at the words ‘Let the whole earth stand in awe of him’. Today the listener may well stand in awe of the composer’s brilliant harmonic control, all the more effective for being repeated a fourth lower. A quartet follows for four upper voices and then a fugato (‘As for the gods of the heathen’) interrupted by a description of the idols sung by the various sections of the choir. A sudden return to the home key of G major brings forth the triumphant chorus ‘As for our God, he is in heaven’. The final section ‘The Lord hath been mindful of us’ will send even the hardest of secular hearts on their way home humming any one of the fine selection of tunes.

from notes by William McVicker 2002


Other albums featuring this work
'Wesley: Anthems, Vol. 1' (CDA66446)
Wesley: Anthems, Vol. 1
MP3 £5.25FLAC £5.25ALAC £5.25Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66446  Archive Service   Download currently discounted

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