English Choral Music - Walton / Robinson, St. John's College

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Listeners who don't already own the excellent Finzi Singers recording (Chandos) of what amounts to a near-identical copy of this program from Cambridge's Choir of St. John's College shouldn't hesitate to grab this equally first-rate budget offering on Naxos. Both recordings feature these essential choral pieces in performances that are as faithfully and fully realized as we can hope for (accompanied works are given in their versions with organ), from the bright and brilliant Coronation Te Deum to the sturdy and reassuring anthem Set me as a seal upon thine heart. Not surprisingly, each of the two choirs sings as if born to this music, and technically there's very little difference between the adult professionals and the men and boys of St. John's. Yes, the vocal timbres show the natural and distinct contrasts of quality most apparent in the voices of boy trebles versus mature female sopranos--but even here, Walton's music loses nothing in its impact due to the less-weighty boy soprano sound. This is as much due to the round-shaped, clearly focused tone of the boy singers as to the Finzi women's well-balanced, warmly-colored vocal character--in each case fitting perfectly into the respective overall ensemble mix.

Now for the differences: the Finzi program offers Walton's lovely--and tricky-to-sing--Christmas carols--Make we joy now in this Fest, What Cheer?, King Herod and the Cock, and All this time; St. John's inserts two organ solos of music from Henry V. Otherwise, the programs are identical in repertoire. However, each recording has its own distinct sound perspective--the Finzi/Chandos being more reverberant and close, the St. John's/Naxos being slightly drier and more distant. Although everyone won't have the luxury of obtaining both of these fine recordings (and you can't go wrong with either), no serious Walton fan will settle for less.
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8555793

  • UPC: 747313579327

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Sir William Walton

  • Conductor: Christopher Robinson

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Cambridge St. John's College Choir

  • Performer: Aaron Burchell, Christopher Whitton, Edward Lyon, Gareth Jones, Geoffrey Silver, Iestyn Davies, James Birchall, Nicholas Morton, Oliver Lepage-Dean