Wednesday, 25 May 2016

A remarkable tribute - In memoriam

In memoriam - Delphian
In memoriam William Byrd, Gareth Wilson, Silvina Milstein, Francis Pott, Jean L'Heritier, Robert Busiakiewicz, Rob Keeley, Antony Pitts, Matthew Martin, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Jacobus Clemens non Papa, Francis Grier; The Choir of King's College Choir London, Gareth Wilson; Delphian
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on May 14 2016
A remarkable tribute to a remarkable man

This disc on Delphian, In Memoriam, was produced in memory of the late David Trendell who was music director of the Choir of King's College London, and whose death in 2014 came as such a shock. Conducted by Gareth Williams the choir performs a mixture of contemporary music, much written in David Trendell's memory, and Renaissance polyphony. There is Byrd's Laudibus in Sanctis, Jean L'Heritier's Nigra sum sed formosa, Palestrina's Quam pulchri sunt gressus tui and Jacobus Clemens non Papa's Ego flos campi, plus Matthew Kaner's Duo Seraphim, Gareth Wilson's Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis (Collegium Regale), Silvina Milstein's ushnarasmou - untimely spring, Francis Pott's Nigra sum sed formosa, Robert Busiakiewicz's Ego sum resurrectio et vita, Rob Keeley's Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis, Antony Pitts Pie Jesu (Prayer of the Heart), Matthew Martin's An Invocation to the Holy Spirit and Francis Grier's Panis Angelicus.

Conductor Gareth Wilson was appointed Acting Music Director of the choir on David Trendell's death, and conducted the choir's concert at St John's Smith Square in December 2014 (see my review) which had been planned by David Trendell. The music on the disc reflects Trendell's interests; Jean L'Heritier's Nigra sum sed formosa is given in Trendell's edition. Many of the contemporary pieces were composed by friends, pupils and colleagues (as the programme note puts it, with such a gregarious social person the were often a combination of the three).

This is recognisably David Trendell's choir.
David Trendell
David Trendell
William Byrd's Laudibus in Sanctis is sung with a big vibrant sound, vibrato led yet sensitive, highly mobile and rhythmic. Duo Seraphim by Matthew Kaner (a former pupil), which receives a fabulous performance, uses a 13 voice solo group which Kaner uses to create and interesting interplay with the full choir. the sound is very fine grained, with a lovely transparency to the sound for all the opaqueness of the harmonies.

Gareth Wilson's Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (Collegium Regale) is a big bold piece for choir and organ. Lyric in outline, with chunky complex harmonies and some vivid imagery, with the Nunc Dimittis being cooler with a sense of keening. A fine performance of a taxing work. Silvina Milstein is a colleague of David Trendell. Her ushnarasmou - untimely spring sets part of a fifth century epic Sanskrit poem. The work is more about texture than pitch, with voices emerging of the texture. The harmonies feel tricky, but it receives a supremely confident performance.

Francis Pott's Nigra sum sed formosa combines a beautifully lyricism with opaque harmonies. There is an appealing shape to the melodic material, with some lovely fine grained solos from Lindsey James, Mary Fraser, Martha Woodhams, and Jacob Werrin. Jean L'Heritier's Nigra sum sed formosa (the same words as used by Francis Pott), is a piece David Trendell had edited but never recorded. It is a calmly beautiful piece with a lovely sense of line. Ego sum resurrectio et vita by Robert Busiakiewicz (another former pupil) has a feeling of polyphony given a modern harmonic twist.

Rob Keely is another of David Trendell's colleagues at King's College. His Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis for upper voices and organ, is spiky with striking textures. The Magnificat is dramatic reflecting the drama in the words rather than the comfortable sense of the Evening Service. The Nunc Dimittis is cooler with an angular beauty of line. Antony Pitts Pie Jesu uses a mixture of words from the Roman Catholic mass and the Orthodox Prayer of the Heart. It starts with a collage of ideas which slowly come together into apiece full of lyrical complexity. The text mixes Latin and English though thee are not easily discernible.

Matthew Martin's An Invocation to the Holy Spirit is a beautifully crafted, thoughtful piece. Palestrina's Quam pulchri sunt gressus tui (from the Song of Songs) is a gentle piece sung with finely transparent tone. Jacobus Clemens non Papa's Ego flos campi (also from the Song of Songs) has a nice clarity to it, with long-breathed phrases. The final work on the disc is Francis Grier's Panis Angelicus which has a lyrical cantilena for soprano and tenor solos (Charlotte Nohavicka & James Rhoads) over hushed chorus. The scale used gives the work an exotic quality. It is a little gem.

This is a fine disc and a great tribute to a remarkable man.

William Byrd (1539/40-1623) - Laudibus in sanctis
Matthew Kaner (born 1986) - Duo seraphim
Gareth Wilson (born 1976) - Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis (Collegium Regale)
Silvina Milstein (born 1957) - ushnarasmou
Francis Pott (born 1957) - Nigra sum sed formosa
Jean L'Heritier (1480-1551) - Nigra sum sed formosa
Robert Busiakiewicz (born 1990) - Ego sum resurrectio et vita
Rob Keeley (born 1960) - Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis
Antony Pitts (born 1969) - Pie Jesu (Prayer of the Heart)
Matthew Martin (born 1976) - Invocation to the Holy Spirit
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594) - Quam pulchri sung gressus tui
Jacobus Cleens non Papa (1510-1555) - Ego flos campi
Francis Grier (born 1955) - Panis angelicus
The Choir of King's College, London
Gareth Wilson (conductor)
Alexander May (organ)
Graham Thorpe (organ)
Recorded 22-24 June 2015 in Church of St John the Evangelist, Upper Norwood
DELPHIAN DCD34146 1CD [79.59]
Available from Amazon.co.uk.

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