The King's Singers are approaching their 40th birthday and, perhaps because they have so stubbornly (at times irritatingly) mixed frivolity and seriousness in their performances down the years, are too easily dismissed or taken for granted.
This new CD is entirely 'serious' in tone, and a timely reminder of the stunningly high musical standards the Singers bring to bear in this kind of unaccompanied vocal repertoire. Half the content is comprised of works that they themselves have commissioned, including John McCabe's Scenes in America Deserta, a sequence of linked tableaux spanning fifteen minutes. Upward and downward glissandos, quasi-Sprechgesang pitching, and perilously exposed end-of-line consonants, among other things, are all demanded, and delivered with jaw-dropping levels of accuracy and interpretive commitment.
Peter Maxwell Davies’s ‘House of Winter’ (another KS commission) sketches an ice-touched Orkney landscape, its atmosphere distilled in restrained dynamics and strange, other-worldly (and often very difficult) intervals. Pieces by Richard Rodney Bennett, Cyrillus Kreek, Jackson Hill, Sibelius and Kodály also feature, with the brief Sir Walter Raleigh setting ‘Even such is time’ by Bob Chilcott (a KS alumnus) poignantly rounding off the recital. Singing of rare distinction, outstanding in its tonal blend of controlled vibrato.