Another great disc from the dazzling Choir of St John’s College Cambridge under their Director of Music David Hill, collaborating with great musicians including Roderick Williams, Paul Provost and the Britten Sinfonia. The music of Edward Bairstow (1874–1946) is an essential part of the British cathedral music tradition. He set his texts ‘with a beauty which makes one never able to think of the words without recalling the music’, as the Dean of York wrote on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. Certainly the more well-known works on this disc eminently fulfill this criterion. St John’s’ inspired recordings of these classic numbers in the matchless acoustic of the chapel make this a disc to treasure on these grounds alone. However it also includes some glorious rarities from different points in Bairstow’s career, which demonstrate his mastery of different styles and developing harmonic language. The Five Poems of the Spirit are a particular highlight: beautiful and unusual settings of metaphysical poetry for solo baritone, choir and orchestra, performed with passionate commitment by the wonderful Roderick Williams.
'An excellent disc in regard both to the standard of performance and to the selection of Bairstow's music. And to that should be added straight away the quality of recorded sound … The recommendation for this new issue is confirmed most decisively by the inclusion of the Five Poems of the Spirit … Roderick Williams is the ideally suited soloist and the Britten Sinfonia do justice to a delightful score' (Gramophone)
'His anthems and services … are treasured within the church. Their touch is sure, and their word-setting is impeccable … Bairstow could hardly have finer advocates than David Hill's St John's Choir, beautiful in tone and balance, admirable clear in enunciation, well supported by rhythmic organ playing, and outstandingly well recorded' (BBC Music Magazine)
'Sung with real conviction by the Choir of St John's College, Cambridge' (The Daily Telegraph)
'Having praised David Hill and the Choir of St John's College, Cambridge in April 2007 for their disc of works by Jongen and Peeters, I find it a pleasure to give an emphatic nod to this new release as well … The choir's intense sound is spot-on for this repertoire; no doubt Bairstow himself would have approved' (International Record Review)