The Exeter College Chapel Choir’s new CD, recorded in celebration of the College’s 700th anniversary, is to be released in April.
The disc includes well known music (including Jerusalem, I was glad, and Songs of Farewell) by one of Exeter’s most celebrated alumni, Sir Hubert Parry, together with the world première recording of the Mass in G major, Op. 46 a substantial work for soloists, chorus and orchestra by his contemporary Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. It concludes with the first recording of Flyht by Nicholas O’Neill, an exciting new work commissioned by the College.
The CD will be released on EM Records, a recently established label which specialises in the first recordings of neglected works by English composers, and has already received considerable acclaim, being described by Gramophone as “groundbreaking”. It will be available directly from the Development Office, or online at www.em-records.com.
George de Voil, Senior Parry-Wood Organ Scholar, who conceived and directed the whole enterprise, reflected on the programme:
“Charles Villiers Stanford’s music for the Anglican liturgy has been a staple of the British choral repertoire for over a century. Only in recent years, however, has his ability to compose effectively and imaginatively for choir, soloists and orchestra together been recognised. The Mass in G major is an extraordinary work, which demonstrates this ability to handle large forces, and on a much bigger canvas than that of a Magnificat or Nunc Dimittis. The composer’s fervent treatment of the Latin text, by turns austere and playful, places it in the same Roman Catholic vein as Dvorák’s similarly large-scale Mass in D, and Haydn’s late essays in the genre. Meanwhile, his confident handling of structure and his use of harmonic colouring shows stylistic affinities with Schubert, Beethoven and Bruckner. It was a revelation to hear Stanford’s idiomatic orchestral textures and choral lines, conceived for the Brompton Oratory, come alive in the chapel’s resonant acoustic, with its wonderful Romantic organ. We tried to capture that sense of awe and excitement on this first recording. The unaccompanied Songs of Farewell by Hubert Parry, who came up to Exeter College in 1867, are intimate and personal pieces which provide the perfect foil for such grandeur. Unfolding from four voices in the famous opener, My soul, there is a country, to a rich seven-part texture in At the round earth’s imagined corners, a setting of words by John Donne, these works demonstrate the choir’s versatile technique and rich expressive palette. We had enormous fun making the premiere recording of Flyht, a work for choir and organ commissioned from the talented emerging composer Nicholas O’Neill to celebrate Exeter College’s 700th Anniversary in 2014. The text incorporates words by another Exonian, Samuel Wesley, and Old English verse from the 11th-century Exeter Book. As one can imagine, it can be a bit of a mouthful — and took some time to get right!”
Exeter College are grateful to Mr Peter Thompson, The Stanford Society, and the Fathers of the London Oratory for their support of this project.