In Terra Pax - A Christmas Anthology / Wetton, Bournemouth SO, City Of London Choir

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This new holiday season has brought with it some smartly programmed Christmas choral recordings, including this one that combines The City of London Choir, soloists, organ, and the Bournemouth Symphony in both familiar works (Herbert Howells' A spotless Rose and Here is the little door; John Gardner's Tomorrow shall be my dancing day; John Rutter's What sweeter music; John Joubert's There is no rose) with those we just don't hear often enough. Among the latter are three extended pieces, Holst's Christmas Day--a festive and cleverly structured joining of several carols with its central theme, Good Christian men, rejoice; Finzi's In terra pax--a 16-minute setting of texts from poet Robert Bridges and from the gospel of St. Luke, its pleasingly meandering, engagingly tuneful, colorfully orchestrated style (with occasional big, dramatic outbursts) making for an evocative tone painting of "A frosty Christmas Eve when the stars were shining..."; and from Kenneth Leighton, not his well-loved Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child, but the longer and very challenging A hymn of the Nativity, which shows impressive virtuosity from the choir. It's also a pleasure to hear Peter Warlock's delightful little gem, Tyrley, tyrlow, as well as the more often-performed Balulalow.

Baritone Roderick Williams and soprano Julia Doyle are ideal soloists in the Finzi, but Williams stands out for his warm, lyrical tone, fluid, natural phrasing, and affecting expression. He's a very gifted interpreter whose discs of Finzi songs and "Children's" songs are well worth checking out. Doyle's opening to the Leighton and subsequent interaction with the choir in this difficult a cappella work is very well done, as is the substantial contribution from the orchestra. Conductor Hilary Davan Wetton has a cool and perfectly judged sense of both the celebratory and the serene, important in realizing the variety of mood and complexity in these 20th-century works. I had a little trouble with the extremely slight intonation discrepancy between choir and organ in Rutter's What sweeter music, which must have been a function of the particular acoustic space--a different venue from most of the other selections. Some listeners will notice; others won't.

The program ends in grand style with Vaughan Williams' God bless the Master (the last of his set of four "Winter" songs from his Folk songs of the four seasons. You can't help but be caught up in the joyful spirit that's apparent throughout all the performances on this disc, from the soloists and accompanists to the choir and orchestra. And while that alone is reason enough to own this, you really shouldn't miss the Leighton or the very rarely-recorded In terra pax, in this now-reference version of the work.

--David Vernier,

Product Description:

  • Release Date: November 17, 2009

  • Catalog Number: 8572102

  • UPC: 747313210275

  • Label: Naxos

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Gerald Finzi, Gustav Holst, Herbert Howells, John Gardner, John Joubert, John Rutter, Kenneth Leighton, Peter Warlock, Ralph Vaughan Williams, William Mathias

  • Conductor: Hilary Davan Wetton

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, City of London Choir

  • Performer: Julia Doyle, Julian Davies, Lydia Challen, Mark Williams, Roderick Williams, Simon Oberts