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Track(s) taken from CDA67497

Blessed city, heavenly Salem

author of text
Urbs beata Hierusalem
translator of text
Hymns Ancient and Modern 396

St John's College Choir Cambridge, David Hill (conductor), Paul Provost (organ)
Recording details: January 2007
St John's College Chapel, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: July 2007
Total duration: 8 minutes 11 seconds

Other recordings available for download

St Paul's Cathedral Choir, John Scott (conductor), Andrew Lucas (organ)
Emerson Murphy (treble), Temple Church Choir, Roger Sayer (conductor), Greg Morris (organ)
Jesus College Choir Cambridge, Mark Williams (conductor), Benjamin Morris (organ)
King's College Choir Cambridge, Stephen Cleobury (conductor), Parker Ramsay (organ)


'An excellent disc in regard both to the standard of performance and to the selection of Bairstow's music. And to that should be added straight away the quality of recorded sound … the recommendation for this new issue is confirmed most decisively by the inclusion of the Five Poems of the Spirit … Roderick Williams is the ideally suited soloist and the Britten Sinfonia do justice to a delightful score' (Gramophone)

'His anthems and services … are treasured within the church. Their touch is sure, and their word-setting is impeccable … Bairstow could hardly have finer advocates than David Hill's St John's Choir, beautiful in tone and balance, admirable clear in enunciation, well supported by rhythmic organ playing, and outstandingly well recorded' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Sung with real conviction by the Choir of St John's College, Cambridge' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Bairstow was several notches above the typical organ loft composer. His best work shows a keen sense of drama and a secure grasp of musical architecture … his music has a warmth and grandeur that continues the best of the great tradition of English cathedral music … the performances here are first rate … the present recording amply demonstrates that St John's has one of the finest choirs in England. In addition, the quality of the recorded sound is delightful. It is a spacious and sumptuous sound with good presences. The Hyperion engineers manage again and again to find the formula that seems to elude so many others' (American Record Guide)

'Having praised David Hill and the Choir of St John's College, Cambridge in April 2007 for their disc of works by Jongen and Peeters, I find it a pleasure to give an emphatic nod to this new release as well … the choir's intense sound is spot-on for this repertoire; no doubt Bairstow himself would have approved' (International Record Review)

'This disc brings a most welcome surprise, the rarely heard late set for baritone, choir, and orchestra, Five Poems of the Spirit (1944). Written during the dark days of the war, these radiate the assurance we also hear in Vaughan Williams' Five Mystical Songs … Roderick Williams sings the generous baritone solos clearly and with conviction and the Britten Sinfonia provides a solid support' (Fanfare, USA)

'The very first track on the disc for instance, 'Jesu, the very thought of thee' is quite beautifully written. The choice and use of texts was of paramount importance to Bairstow and he sets these with great care … 'Blessed city' is on a grander scale and has real passion … most surprising of all is the sheer harmonic austerity. To those expecting tedious old Anglican Church music: think again! … the real revelation is Five Poems of the Spirit … these are perhaps a close relation of the Five Mystical Songs of Vaughan Williams and inhabit the same sort of rather reflective, and, yes, mystical soundworld, setting texts by the Metaphysical Poets Richard Crashaw and George Herbert as well as a beautiful poem by Sir Walter Raleigh, 'Purse and Scrip'. Bairstow responds to this with music that is confident, bracing, imaginative, and, at times, quite magical … the wistful ending of the last setting makes one regret all the more that Bairstow didn't spend more time or have the confidence to set his mind to these larger projects. Anyone who loves English choral music will respond positively to every moment of these settings. As for the performances—the ever-reliable and versatile Roderick Williams is as eloquent as always and the Choir makes some wonderful sounds—the entry in the fourth part of Poems of the Spirit is alone worth the price of the CD alone. Warmly and enthusiastically recommended' (Classical Source)
Blessed city, heavenly Salem exemplifies two characteristics of Bairstow's choral music: an attention to detail in his organ parts, and the use of a plainsong theme, in this case Urbs beata. Bairstow's music is a curious and fascinating mix of Brahmsian harmony with plainsong, Elizabethan and Jacobean musical influences. The bold opening of this work eventually gives way to unison passages for trebles, then tenors and basses. A short organ interlude leads to the climactic central section before a longer interlude heralds the final portion of the work scored for chorus and treble solo.

from notes by William McVicker © 1990

Bairstow était originaire du Yorkshire. Il écrivit cet anthem pour le chœur de la paroisse de Heaton peu après sa nomination comme organiste de la cathédrale d’York. C’est l’un des cinq hymn-anthems de sa production, et allait devenir son œuvre la plus connue—Blessed city est d’ailleurs le titre de la biographie du compositeur par Francis Jackson. Texte et air proviennent de l’hymne processionnel du 9ème siècle Urbs beata Jerusalem; Bairstow utilisa cinq de ses huit strophes, dans une version très adaptée de la traduction de J. M. Neale datée de 1851. La mélodie de plain-chant est en mode dorien, mais il n’y a rien de modal dans le traitement résolument contemporain qu’en fait Bairstow, avec une partie d’orgue haute en couleur inspirée par le texte. Il utilisa librement des parties de la mélodie, en les allongeant et les modifiant parfois, leur ajoutant un déchant et les modulant dans des tonalités voisines. Après une apogée triomphale, l’anthem se termine sur une calme prière, dont l’air, chanté en valeurs longues par un ténor accompagnant un soprano solo tout en virtuosité, est suivi d’un Amen en demi-teintes.

extrait des notes rédigées par Nicholas Temperley © 2014
Français: Gildas Tilliette

Bairstow stammte aus Yorkshire und schrieb diese Hymne für den Kirchenchor von Heaton kurz nach seiner Berufung zum Organisten am York Minster. Es handelt sich hier um eines von fünf Lobliedern aus seiner Feder und sollte zu einem seiner bekanntesten Werke werden. Blessed City wurde sogar als Titel für Francis Jacksons Biographie des Komponisten ausgewählt. Sowohl Text als auch Melodie stammen von der Prozessionshymne Urbs beata Jerusalem aus dem 9. Jahrhundert. Bairstow verwendet fünf der acht Verse in einer stark überarbeiteten Version der Übersetzung von J. M. Neale aus dem Jahre 1851. Die Melodie des cantus planus ist in dorischem Modus, doch ist Bairstows Bearbeitung alles andere als modal: sie ist durch und durch zeitgenössisch, mit einem extravaganten, vom Text inspirierten Orgelpart. Bairstow verwendet Phrasen der Melodie nach Belieben, indem er sie manchmal ausdehnt oder verändert, einen Kontrapunkt hinzufügt und sie in verwandte Tonarten moduliert. Nach einem triumphalen Höhepunkt endet die Hymne in einem stillen Gebet, mit einer im Tenor gespielten Melodie in langen Noten, und das von einem blumigen Knabensopran-Solo begleitet und von einem gedämpften Amen gefolgt wird.

aus dem Begleittext von Nicholas Temperley © 2014
Deutsch: Paul Hoegger

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