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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67586
Recording details: February 2006
Westminster Abbey, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Summerly
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: September 2006
Total duration: 10 minutes 52 seconds

'Anglican music can be heard at its best from Westminster Abbey … a varied programme stylishly performed' (Choir & Organ)

'Early notice is served of how well the Abbey's choristers are currently singing … an admirably varied programme, with excellent Hyperion recording' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Exhilarating performances' (The Daily Telegraph)

'As with the previous releases in this series, the choir (and organist Robert Quinney, who here ends the disc in spectacular fashion with Jeanne Demessieux's Te Deum), under the fluent direction of James O'Donnell, is above reproach' (International Record Review)

'After eight years James O'Donnell has brought a new sound to the choir of Westminster Abbey. The boys show the greater improvement, a firmer, more solid tone, but the men also now sound like the best adult choirs … the acoustics of the Gothic building are superb, and the organ makes magnificent sounds' (Fanfare, USA)

'The range of musical styles is as varied as could be … the standard of singing and recording is fully equal to such demanding music, but it is equally satisfying to hear psalms and familiar canticles, Stanford in C (Morning) and Purcell in G minor (Evening) performed with such loving care. An excellent disc, highly recommended' (Cathedral Music)

Missa brevis
composer
1995
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

Kyrie  [2'40] GreekEnglish
Gloria  [3'11] LatinEnglish

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
In 1995 the Dean and Chapter commissioned the distinguished contemporary English composer Jonathan Harvey to compose a Missa brevis. It is a striking and concentrated setting of the Ordinary of the Mass (that is, the invariable texts of the Communion service) that draws imaginatively on contemporary techniques and idioms, and yet is expressly intended to be sung liturgically. Harvey explains that the three main musical characteristics in the work can be taken to represent the glory of God (as in the opening section of the Gloria), the compassion of Jesus (the plaintive and insistent music of the Kyrie), and human suffering (parts of the Agnus Dei). A particularly interesting feature of the Gloria is Harvey’s use of shouted text alongside the sung parts. In the final, climactic section the choir seems to disintegrate into chaos as all the voices sing the music in their own time, like a babble of praise, coming together again only for the final phrase. The Sanctus begins with a still, low-set A major chord (perhaps inspired by some early Tudor Masses); at each repetition of the word ‘Sanctus’ Harvey progressively complicates the chord with added dissonant notes. The ‘Dominus Deus’ section builds up from a whisper of low voices to a striking, ringing A major ‘Hosanna’; like the opening ‘Sanctus’, this is immediately enriched with dissonant harmonies. An imposing and angular ‘Benedictus’ for solo bass follows, almost interrupted by the final ‘Hosanna’. The Agnus Dei expressively refers to music from the foregoing movements, thus drawing the Mass as a whole to a most satisfying close.

from notes by James O'Donnell © 2006

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