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Track(s) taken from CDA67740

Jesus College Service, Op 53

commission by and first performed at Jesus College, Cambridge, on the occasion of the dedication of the new organ on 6 March 1971; published 1973
author of text
Magnificat: Luke 1: 46-55; Nunc dimittis: Luke 2: 29-32

Wells Cathedral Choir, Matthew Owens (conductor), Jonathan Vaughn (organ)
Recording details: June 2008
Wells Cathedral, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: May 2009
Total duration: 7 minutes 18 seconds

Cover artwork: Lux in tenebris (1895) by Evelyn De Morgan (1855-1919)
© The De Morgan Centre, London / Bridgeman Art Library, London


'This is one of those recordings that works its way into your spirit and enriches the soul … glorious, life-affirming and distinctive choral music in superbly polished performances' (Gramophone)

'This valuable anthology of Mathias's church music … the performance is marked by a palpable understanding of text and sustained concentration … excellent notes by Roderic Dunnett help enormously to 'place' both Mathias and his music' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Mathias fanciers who already have the Christ Church Cathedral Choir or Gloriae Dei Cantores CDs can add this newcomer without significant redundancy … conductor Matthew Owens obtains a creamily blended (but not bland) sound from his 34 singers … it is nice to hear a choral group pay as much attention to meaning and characterization as it does to sound per se. Organist Jonathan Vaughn doesn't overwhelm the choristers and is given a chance to bask in his own light in the Processional and Carillon' (International Record Review)
A berceuse pattern beautifully decorates the words ‘For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden’ in the set of Evening Canticles, given their first performance at Jesus College, Cambridge, on 6 March 1971 (Mathias wrote another set, the St David’s Service, for Kenneth Bowen’s London choir, in 1991). What is also interesting as the Magnificat moves towards its close is that it assumes a modal character akin to that of Peter Maxwell Davies. Such a similarity may be passing and coincidental, or salient and fundamental. Here it reflects how Mathias, veering towards French-tinged whole-tone scales, and Maxwell Davies, constantly drawn to ‘taming’ the once-outlawed diminished fifth (or augmented fourth), find themselves generating patterns of a not dissimilar modal quality. The effect here is superb.

There is sprightly urgency and bright colouring in much of Mathias’s music: patently so in the anguishedly repeating ‘for ever’ at the Magnificat’s close. Yet such is Mathias’s musical dexterity and imagination that he is always able to spring a surprise, to tease out (à la Haydn) an unexpected twist, or evolve something unanticipated and magical out of an essentially simple idea. This is perfectly illustrated by the unforeseen breadth of the doxology, ‘Glory be to the Father’: an impressive final envoi whose nobilmente quality recalls the Evening Canticles by the English composer Edmund Rubbra. By contrast, the organum-like hushed opening of the Nunc dimittis veers between Orthodox-like simplicity and the shrewd inventiveness of Britten: someone who knew all too well how to write for boys’ (or indeed girls’) voices.

from notes by Roderic Dunnett © 2009

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