DCD34144-CD

The Marian Collection

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This is the fourth and final themed recording in a series that has confirmed Merton’s new choral foundation as one of the UK’s leading collegiate choirs. Benjamin Nicholas again draws from the landmark collection of more than fifty-five works written in celebration of the College’s 750th anniversary. Here, a new work by Judith Weir (newly appointed Master of the Queen’s Music) heads a set of the four Marian antiphons, all specially commissioned from female composers, while two further premiere recordings represent the work of regular Merton collaborators Gabriel Jackson and Matthew Martin.

At the other end of the chronological spectrum, Peter Phillips’ expert direction of Byrd’s rarely performed Salve Regina, a bold statement of Catholic faith from Reformation England, and of John Nesbett’s late 15th-century Magnificat, a piece whose neglect on disc is astonishing, completes this portrait in sound of a woman who – as characterised in Alexandra Coghlan’s illuminating booklet essay – is at once virgin and mother, human and God-bearer, suppliant and Queen of Heaven.

"the jutting vocal fanfares of [Weir's] Ave Regina caelorum set a brightly celebratory atmosphere at the disc's beginning...The seven-part writing of Hannah Kendall's numinous Regina caeli is lucidly balanced out by the singers...Of the other works the glowing Magnificat of 15th-century composer John Nesbitt is particularly notable, bringing gleaming work from the sopranos in particular."

"The Delphian engineers capture superbly this excellent choir in its home chapel and one of the main delights of the programme is precisely the engaging mix of early and contemporary music."

"this arresting sequence is of old and new representations of the Virgin. Judith Weir’s vigorous, beautifully fresh Ave Regina caelorum is the first of four such Marian antiphons commissioned from women, the others being Kerry Andrew, Hannah Kendall and Dobrinka Tabakova, the results all striking"

"Delphian scores yet another choral hit with this exceptional and fascinating collection themed around musical representations of the Virgin Mary. And once again, Merton College Choir is the immaculate vehicle for performances that encompass the old and the new."

"[a] fascinating and finely executed collection of anthems and motets…The 35-strong mixed voice choir possess perfect intonation and blend…this is not a disc to be missed."

"Benjamin Nicholas and Peter Phillips have done a marvellous job in training these young singers to such a consistently high standard...As for the sound, it seems to me that engineer Paul Baxter definitely has the measure of the wonderful acoustic of the Merton chapel and this recording is beyond reproach."

"The Delphian engineers capture superbly this excellent choir in its home chapel and one of the main delights of the programme is precisely the engaging mix of early and contemporary music."

EARLY MUSIC REVIEW

Producer: Paul Baxter
Recording venue(s): Chapel of Merton College, Oxford
Recording dates: 2-4 July 2014
Physical format: Digipack
Number of discs: 1
Number of tracks: 15
Release date: 24 November 2014
Total playing time: 1:07:42
Album ID: DCD34144

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