Hyperion’s record of the month for May presents a programme of sacred choral music from Westminster Cathedral.
Since its dedication, Westminster Cathedral has been a place of inspiration and prayer—and one of musical discovery. Vaughan Williams’s Mass in G minor is popularly reported as having received its first performance in the Cathedral. Although this statement is untrue, it is certainly true to say that it was the work’s first liturgical performance—at a service in 1923 directed by the pioneering Richard Runciman Terry—that won a place at the centre of the repertory for this pioneering piece, justly described as the first ‘English’ Mass setting since the sixteenth century and the time of Byrd and Tallis. This new performance, similarly, promises to set a new standard.
The three further Vaughan Williams pieces on this recording are fascinating. O vos omnes, a setting of texts from the Book of Lamentations, is probably the best known; it is joined by Valiant-for-Truth, a narrative from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and the extraordinary A vision of aeroplanes which vividly depicts Ezekiel’s prophetic inspiration.
The pantheon of composers to have responded to commissions from Westminster Cathedral—including Vaughan Williams, Howells, Holst and Britten—now counts Judith Bingham among its number. And what a welcome this new Mass can expect. With its carefully structured and thought-provoking music, this new setting fits at once into the constant evolving liturgy of the church, combining the highest artistic needs with an awareness of contemporary sympathies. This Mass recently won a British Composer Award for Liturgical Music, and this recording will now offer it a place in the repertory beyond the cloister.