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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: 9 minutes 37 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)

The King and the Robin
First line:
Who goes there, brushing through the dark drenched Spring?
first performed 12 October 2005
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The anthem The King and the Robin is a recent Westminster Abbey commission, for the 2005 millennium celebrations for St Edward. It was first performed at Evensong on the Eve of the Feast of St Edward, 12 October 2005, and broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. Both words and music were specially created. Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate, who wrote the text, writes:

When I began thinking about the poem that has become The King and the Robin, I read a certain amount about Edward the Confessor—and realized that we know precious little about him. As a living, breathing man, that is. What we do have, though, are a number of contemporary or near-contemporary accounts of the miraculous good deeds that he was able to perform—healing the blind, for instance. This lack of precise information, combined with the suggestiveness of the healing stories, pushed me in the direction of thinking I might write something which had the feel (roughly) of a medieval lyric: the kind of poem which uses stock images and ideas (orchards, mysterious encounters and so on), and draws on their accumulated associations while adding its own emphases.
I hope The King and the Robin might have this kind of combination. I’m not aware of a story in which we see the king meeting such a bird, but their encounter here triggers a little debate which I hope his chroniclers would recognize as being essentially true. A debate, that is to say, about the relative merits of ‘action’ and ‘art’—and about our continuing need to combine them. As the idea developed, I tried to move between an up-front kind of language and a more ornamental one—partly to reflect the argument of the poem in its sounds, and partly to give the composer some variety to work with …

The composer Philip Moore, director of music at York Minster since 1983, has responded imaginatively to the rich imagery and texture of the poem. Much of his melodic and harmonic material is derived from the first three bars of the piece and Moore takes every opportunity for word-painting and characterization; most obviously, perhaps, the King is depicted by a baritone soloist and the mythical figure of the Robin by a solo treble. The final two lines of the text, in which the two protagonists agree that both ‘action’ and ‘art’ are equally valuable and combine to make ‘a thousand years of praise’, are brilliantly set in an exciting fugue that builds up to a blazing conclusion.

from notes by James O'Donnell © 2006

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