An English Coronation, 1902-1953 / McCreesh, Gabrieli Consort
A MusicWeb International Recording of the Year: "This recording was reviewed four times on MWI, and on each occasion, it was nominated as a Recommended recording, once being accorded Recording of the Month status. Now, three of those reviewers have selected it among their Recordings of the Year. With such acclaim, it made the choice of overall Recording of the Year very simple."
The four coronations of the twentieth century were enormous and extravagant. Replete with festive pageantry, these ceremonies were joyful celebrations of British music, employing tremendous forces. Choirs from across London and beyond were marshaled to provide a chorus of over 400 voices; a full-size symphony orchestra was squeezed into Westminster Abbey, whilst bands of fanfare trumpeters led the pomp and celebration- EDWARD VII in 1902, GEORGE V in 1911, GEORGE VI in 1937, and ELIZABETH II in 1953. In the imposing surroundings of Ely Cathedral, Paul McCreesh and Gabrieli bring the history, ceremony and liturgy of these extraordinary events to life. With his renowned creative flair, McCreesh’s painstaking research will provide the springboard for their latest ground-breaking recreation project.
The result will is a joyful celebration of five centuries of choral music, performed with the same vast forces as were heard at the coronation services. Alongside an orchestra of rare early-twentieth century instruments, an extended Gabrieli Consort is amplified by the energetic sound and fresh faces of several hundred young singers from Gabrieli’s choral training programme Gabrieli Roar. The music is interspersed by the coronation liturgy, with Simon Russell Beale speaking the part of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Without precisely recreating any of last century’s four coronations, McCreesh has blended elements from them into a notional kingly crowning. Apart from the splendid ceremonial music, most of the ritual texts are included, with actor Simon Russell Beale enlisted to play the Archbishop of Canterbury. In typical style, McCreesh has assembled a choral mega-force of hundreds of choristers, together with a group of young singers rejoicing in the wonderful name of Gabrieli Roar. Period instruments add to the evocation of time. All these elements together, placed in the grandeur of Ely Cathedral make for a very special encounter with history, ritual and culture.
Although certain musical choices are a given (Parry’s I Was Glad and Handel’s Zadok the Priest) McCreesh has revived some well-crafted but lesser known occasional pieces such as Elgar’s Coronation March and Howells’ The King’s Herald. Generous and forward-looking, he has also commissioned David Matthews to create a new orchestral piece that leads into the National Anthem.
All of the music is delivered with a magnificent sense of occasion. McCreesh deploys his musical army with the precision of a five-star general, making the most of the spatial elements ranging from distant processions to the thunderous, lusty singing of the Old Hundredth in Vaughan Williams’ now revered arrangement. Extracts from the English version of RVW’s serene Mass in G Minor are beautifully sung, contrasting with the punchy drama of Stanford’s Gloria and Walton’s Te Deum.
McCreesh is to be applauded for the breadth and depth of his vision: broad enough to involve large numbers of young people, and new music; admirably deep in attending to performance practice and fine detail. This extraordinary enterprise, involving almost 1,000 performers, will certainly be a benchmark for the next coronation! In the meantime, what will this musical Cecil B. DeMille do next?
Absolutely top of my list, the huge favourite of the year and one of those releases you really feel privileged to have been able to review, was also one of the most gloriously eccentric. Paul McCreesh brought together music from each of the four coronations of the 20th century and roped in a huge cast of singers and instrumentalists to complement his own Gabrieli Consort. The results are truly spectacular.
-- MusicWeb International
Release Date: May 03, 2019
Catalog Number: SIGCD569
Label: Signum Classics
Conductor: Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble: Gabrieli Players, Gabrieli Consort, Gabrieli Roar