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Track(s) taken from CDA67643

Magnificat and Nunc dimittis 'Collegium Sancti Johannis Cantabrigiense'

1961; for the 450th anniversary of the foundation of St John's College, Cambridge
author of text
Magnificat: Luke 1: 46-55; Nunc dimittis: Luke 2: 29-32

Westminster Abbey Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor)
Recording details: February 2007
Westminster Abbey, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Summerly
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: September 2007
Total duration: 7 minutes 18 seconds

Other recordings available for download

BBC Singers, Stephen Cleobury (conductor), Iain Farrington (organ)
St Paul's Cathedral Choir, Andrew Carwood (conductor), Simon Johnson (organ)


'The disc is a splendid and colourful addition to the Abbey Choir's recordings of special services. They themselves are in fine form, sovereign (as befits the status of their church) in musical confidence, as well placed as the bright-toned voices of the boys who rise with an aplomb many opera house choruses might envy to the high Cs of the Langlais Mass, and show their mastery in still more wonderful ways by finding the notes scattered with hide-and-seek devilry in Tippet's Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. And in that connection the soloist Nicholas Trapp deserves particular mention. Their style, under James O'Donnell's sure direction, is forthright and spirited, well attuned to the Jacobean mysticism of Dering's Factus est silentium as to Howell's ecstatic Sequence for St Michael … Kenneth Leighton's Responses are subtly varied and inventive' (Gramophone)

'The choir, atmospherically recorded in the Abbey itself, sings this demanding repertoire with its customary zeal and a well-blended sound, and the performances are directed with the panache and style one has come to expect from James O'Donnell. Robert Quinney's contribution as organist culminates in a Laus Deo from Jonathan Harvey aptly described by O'Donnell in his booklet note as 'the opulent psychedelia of [Messiaen's] Turangalîla compressed into four minutes'' (The Daily Telegraph)
Sir Michael Tippett (1905–1998) is part of an illustrious line of English composers who, whilst admiring the legacy and music of the church, were at best agnostic, and in some cases out-and-out atheists. Unlike Benjamin Britten, Tippett’s evolving musical genius was on a slow burn. He was thirty before any pieces were published and he could be fiercely self-critical about his work, destroying many of his earliest compositions. Tippett was born in Eastcote in Middlesex but the family soon moved to Suffolk and Tippett was sent off to boarding school, first at Swanage in Dorset, then at Fettes College in Edinburgh and finally at Stamford School in Lincolnshire. In 1923 he began studies at the Royal College of Music. Tippett’s output includes five operas, alongside significant orchestral, chamber and choral works: his cantata A Child of our Time is one of his best-known works.

In 1962, St John’s College, Cambridge, was celebrating its 450th anniversary and Tippett was commissioned to write a liturgical work in celebration. Tippett himself decided to set the evening canticles and the first performance was given in the Chapel by the College Choir under George Guest on 13 March 1962. Controversial at the time and controversial to this day, the setting underlines the revolutionary nature of the text (he ‘hath exalted the humble and meek … and the rich he hath sent empty away’). Tippett was particularly interested in the Trompetta Real stop which had recently been added to the St John’s organ and which, with its trumpets protruding at a 45-degree angle from the casework, was an inspiration from the organs George Guest had discovered on trips to Spain. The Magnificat starts with an ecstatic flourish from the Trompetta and can be a rude awakening to those used to the comfortable and comforting settings of the previous ages. The Nunc dimittis is particularly affecting. Ian Kemp describes the low organ chords as ‘the thumping in Simeon’s heart as he is about to meet his Creator’ and goes on to say that ‘Simeon is too old to voice his own thoughts. All he can do is say “Lord”. An angel plucks the words out of his thoughts and sings them for him’ (Kemp, Ian Tippett The Composer and his Music, OUP, 1987, p374).

from notes by Andrew Carwood © 2014

Other albums featuring this work

Canticles from St Paul's
Studio Master: CDA68058Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Tippett: Choral images
SIGCD092Download only
Evensong Live 2016
Studio Master: KGS0015Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
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