Hear My Prayer / Edison, Choir Of St John's, Elora

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You might accurately describe this program as a compilation of "great hits of Christian church music", including as it does Franck's Panis angelicus, Finzi's God is gone up, Mozart's Laudate Dominum, Fauré's Cantique de Jean Racine, Lotti's Crucifixus, Howells' Magnificat, and the overrated, overwrought, overlong (and usually excruciatingly-sung) Hear my prayer by Mendelssohn. We also get a couple of Purcell anthems, O God, Thou art my God and Remember not, O Lord, Stanford's glorious motet Justorum animae, Duruflé's tiny masterpiece Ubi caritas et amor, and the choral setting of Elgar's "Nimrod" orchestral variation (Lux aeterna).

In previous reviews, I've praised this excellent choir from Elora, Ontario, and its performances here are first-rate as well. The choir especially shines in the Stanford and Duruflé, singing these oft-recorded motets as well or better than anyone on disc, with every detail of phrasing, breathing, and dynamic change perfectly worked out and executed. The same goes for the Howells, a work we don't hear often enough. We also can appreciate the ensemble's extraordinary discipline in the Purcell pieces, successfully managing the difficult transitions and sustaining the momentum through vocal writing that usually just seems disjointed and cumbersome.

Top billing on the program goes to the ever-popular Mendelssohn, and it's here that the performance falters--not because of the choir or its top-notch organist, Matthew Larkin, but due to soprano soloist Karina Gauvin, who I've admired on several other recordings but who seems shaky, unsure, and less than convincing in this admittedly tedious and difficult solo part. That aside, this is a very satisfying program that choral enthusiasts will embrace, especially when they hear such highlights as Eleanor Daley's refreshingly traditional In Remembrance (from her Requiem), the aforementioned Stanford and Duruflé, and the spectacular rendition of the Elgar, the best version on disc by far. The sound, from the choir's home venue, is full-bodied yet well-balanced, detailed and cleanly articulated. (I'm still hoping that Naxos will include track listings/timings in the CD booklet, not just on the back of the CD box.) [4/7/2006]
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8557493

  • UPC: 747313249329

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Antonio Lotti, César Franck, Charles Villiers Stanford, Edgar Bainton, Eleanor Daley, Felix Mendelssohn, Gabriel Fauré, Gerald Finzi, Henry Purcell, Herbert Howells, Maurice Duruflé, Sir Edward Elgar, Stephen Chatman, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

  • Conductor: Noel Edison

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Elora Choir of St. John's

  • Performer: Karina Gauvin, Matthew Larkin