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The Choir of Westminster Abbey, James O'Donnell, Robert Quinney - A Christmas Caroll From Westminster Abbey (2008)

Posted By: Designol
The Choir of Westminster Abbey, James O'Donnell, Robert Quinney - A Christmas Caroll From Westminster Abbey (2008)

A Christmas Caroll From Westminster Abbey (2008)
The Choir of Westminster Abbey, conducted by James O'Donnell; Robert Quinney, organ

EAC | FLAC | Image (Cue&Log) ~ 253 Mb | Mp3 (CBR320) ~ 169 Mb | Scans included
Classical, Choral, Sacred, Christmas | Label: Hyperion | # CDA67716 | 01:03:34

This seasonal offering from The Choir of Westminster Abbey presents a delightful and unusual selection of music for Christmas. It encompasses many of the diverse themes of Christmas which have inspired composers across the ages: light shining in darkness; the tenderness of mother and child; the fulfilment of promise; and the warm merriment of corporate celebration. An excellent selection of contemporary carols features the composers Jonathan Dove and Bob Chilcott among others. The richness of twentieth-century church music is illustrated in works by Poulenc, Walton, Mathias and Leighton, and by the heartbreakingly lovely piece The little road to Bethlehem by Michael Head. Skilful arrangements of the traditional carols Silent night, In dulci jubilo and I saw three ships, complete this attractive seasonal release.

Every holiday season brings with it a new batch of Christmas discs, and in 2008 it brought this Hyperion disc called A Christmas Caroll from Westminster Abbey with James O'Donnell directing the Choir of Westminster Abbey. It contains some familiar songs in unfamiliar arrangements like Christopher Bowers-Broadbent's take "Silent Night," Robert Pearsall's re-working of "In dulci jubilo" and James O'Donnell's own vision of "I Saw Three Ships." For the most part, however, the repertoire here is taken from modern and contemporary composers with Poulenc's Quatre motets pout le temps de Noël, Walton's "All This Time," Rutter's "Dormi, Jesu," and William Mathias' "Ave Rex." But despite the disparity of the selections in style and content, the performances are consistently appealing. The boys and men of the Westminster Choir sing with a warmly round tone and a smoothly polished ensemble and O'Donnell is a masterful leader who shapes the performances into sweetly attractive aesthetic wholes. While fans of old-fashioned choral Christmas discs may find that this one has a tad too much contemporary music for their taste, anyone looking for a new Christmas disc of modern and contemporary choral Christmas music will at least have to try this one. Hyperion's digital sound is deep and clear, with a strong feeling of place and time, though the manifest emptiness of the hall is perhaps less than ideally suited for the sound of the season.

Review by James Leonard, Allmusic.com


The very fruitful partnership between Hyperion and the Westminster Abbey choir continues with this recital of Christmas music. I suppose I was favourably disposed towards it before even starting to listen since the programme that James O’Donnell has chosen is just my sort of Christmas collection. That’s not to say that I don’t like the familiar seasonal favourites but some carols seem almost omnipresent on disc and it’s great to encounter a refreshing and enterprising programme such as this.

A sub-theme in the programme is the inclusion of recent commissions for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge. The earliest of these is Rutter’s Dormi Jesu, written for the 1999 Festival. This is a particularly treasurable example of Rutter’s craft. In his perceptive notes Robert Quinney draws attention to "the memorable melody, perfect choral writing, and sensitivity to the text" but adds "the harmony is more than usually rich, straying some way into the blues-zone". It receives a performance of great beauty here. From the following year’s Festival, I believe, comes Bob Chilcott’s The Shepherd’s Carol. This, too, is a lovely piece, aptly described by Quinney as "an exquisite choral texture." Completing the King’s triptych is Jonathan Dove’s The Three Kings, first heard at the 2000 Festival. This is a little less easy to grasp at first hearing, perhaps, but I’ve heard it a good few times over the years and it impresses me more with each hearing. It’s a mysterious piece in many ways, full of atmosphere. James O’Donnell and his choir do it proud. Continuing the King’s connection we’re also given the winning arrangement of Joys Seven by the long-serving Music Director at the college, Stephen Cleobury, whose enlightened policy towards the annual Festival was responsible for commissioning the three items I’ve just mentioned as well as many others by a wide variety of composers.

I was familiar with nearly all the music on this disc but there are two significant exceptions. One is A Christmas Caroll by Kenneth Leighton, the piece that gives the disc its title. This is a setting of the poem by Robert Herrick, which many other composers have set, including John Rutter and Richard Rodney Bennett. Both of those composers set the text in a quiet, reflective way but Leighton responds to it with much more extrovert music and his piece incorporates an elaborate organ part. I can’t recall hearing this work before but I think it’s very fine. Julian Empett’s baritone solos give particular pleasure in a very fine overall performance.

I’m certain I’ve not encountered previously Nativity by the young American composer, James Lavino. It’s a very recent composition, dating from 2007, though that information isn’t included in the booklet. Lavino has chosen to set some lines by John Donne. He’s produced a very beautiful and thoughtful piece. The choral writing is very skilful and Lavino generates a compelling atmosphere. I would guess that the piece requires great control to sing well – and it’s certainly sung very well indeed on this occasion.

The programme includes two sets of Christmas pieces. Poulenc’s magnificent Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël rank among his finest vocal works and are surely classics of the genre. The Westminster singers do them very well – I admired the control of line in the gorgeous ‘O magnum mysterium’ for example and their supple phrasing in ‘Quem vidistis pastores’. If I have a criticism I don’t think they let go quite enough in ‘Hodie Christus natus est’. This is an exultant piece and this performance sounds just a trifle careful, even inhibited.

At the other end of the programme comes Ave Rex, the carol sequence by the Welsh composer, William Mathias. Composed in 1969, it has become one of his best-known works. The Westminster choir is right on top of it and Robert Quinney dispatches the crucial organ part with élan. The exuberant movements, ‘Alleluya, a new work is come on hand’ and ‘Sir Christèmas’ are done with verve while the more contemplative ‘There is no rose of such virtue’ is performed most sensitively.

This is a first rate Christmas compilation. I admire both the enterprise of the programme selection and the skill with which the programme is executed. The engineers have done a very fine job, using the resonance of Westminster Abbey very intelligently to produce sound that is both clear and atmospheric. This is a disc that I know will give me a great deal of pleasure in the coming Christmas season and I hope it will do the same for you.

Review by John Quinn, MusicWeb-International.com


The Choir of Westminster Abbey, James O'Donnell, Robert Quinney - A Christmas Caroll From Westminster Abbey (2008)



The Choir of Westminster Abbey, James O'Donnell, Robert Quinney - A Christmas Caroll From Westminster Abbey (2008)



The Choir of Westminster Abbey, James O'Donnell, Robert Quinney - A Christmas Caroll From Westminster Abbey (2008)



The Choir of Westminster Abbey
James O’Donnell, conductor
Robert Quinney (organ)

rec. Westminster Abbey 7, 8, 14, 15 February 2008.

Tracklist:

Old German carol, arr. Robert Lucas PEARSALL (1795-1856)
01. In Dulci Iubilo (03:37)

Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Quatre Motets Pour Le Temps De Noël
02. O Magnum Mysterium (03:11)
03. Quem Vidistis Pastores Dicite (02:30)
04. Videntes Stellam (02:53)
05. Hodie Christus Natus Est (02:32)

Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929-1988)
06. A Christmas Caroll (06:26)

William WALTON (1902-1983)
07. All This Time (01:56)

James LAVINO (b. 1973)
08. Nativity (03:39)

John RUTTER (b. 1945)
09. Dormi, Jesu (04:56)

Bob CHILCOTT (b. 1955)
10. The Shepherd's Carol (03:08)

Jonathan DOVE (b. 1959)
11. The Three Kings (05:26)

Trad. arr Stephen CLEOBURY
12. Joys Seven (03:16)

Franz GRÜBER (1787-1863) arr. Christopher BOWERS-BROADBENT
13. Silent Night (03:00)

Trad arr. James O’DONNELL
14. I Saw Three Ships (01:39)

Michael HEAD (1900-1976)
15. The Little Road To Bethlehem (03:05)

William MATHIAS (1934-1992)
Ave Rex
16. Ave Rex Angelorum (02:50)
17. Alleluya, A New Work Is Come On Hand (01:47)
18. There Is No Rose Of Such Virtue (04:05)
19. Sir Christèmas (01:42)
20. Ave Rex Angelorum (01:45)


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James O'Donnell / Westminster Abbey Choir / A Christmas Caroll From Westminster Abbey

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==== Log checksum D11D1973B32466371FA0CBD86E11C9CE540007A277B30BFF48EB7709EFAD7E79 ====

foobar2000 1.2 / Dynamic Range Meter 1.1.1
log date: 2017-12-06 17:08:40

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Analyzed: Benedict Kearns, Cameron Roberts; James O'Donnell: Westminster Abbey Choir / A Christmas Caroll From Westminster Abbey (1)
Benedict Kearns; James O'Donnell: Westminster Abbey Choir / A Christmas Caroll From Westminster Abbey (2)
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

DR Peak RMS Duration Track
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DR16 -1.14 dB -23.71 dB 5:26 11-Dove: The Three Kings
DR13 -2.76 dB -22.58 dB 3:17 12-Anonymous/Cleobury: Joys Seven
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Number of tracks: 2
Official DR value: DR14

Samplerate: 44100 Hz
Channels: 2
Bits per sample: 16
Bitrate: 505 kbps
Codec: FLAC
================================================================================

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Analyzed: James O'Donnell: Westminster Abbey Choir / A Christmas Caroll From Westminster Abbey
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

DR Peak RMS Duration Track
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
DR14 -7.15 dB -27.19 dB 3:38 01-Anonymous/Pearsall: In Dulci Iubilo
DR14 -4.45 dB -26.50 dB 3:12 02-Poulenc: 4 Motets Pour Le Temps De Noel: I. O Magnum Mysterium
DR15 -1.50 dB -24.49 dB 2:30 03-II. Quem Vidistis Pastores Dicite
DR15 -4.49 dB -26.29 dB 2:53 04-III. Videntes Stellam
DR14 -1.24 dB -22.11 dB 2:33 05-IV: Hodie Christus Natus Est
DR13 -7.81 dB -25.64 dB 1:56 07-Walton: All This Time
DR15 -4.51 dB -25.77 dB 3:40 08-Lavino: Nativity
DR15 -11.06 dB -31.12 dB 4:57 09-Rutter: Dormi, Jesu
DR15 -1.64 dB -26.79 dB 3:09 10-Chilcott: The Shepherd's Carol
DR14 -10.85 dB -31.62 dB 3:00 13-Gruber/Bowers-Broadbent: Stille Nacht (Silent Night)
DR13 -15.37 dB -32.50 dB 1:40 14-Anonymous/O'Donnell: I Saw Three Ships
DR14 -4.65 dB -27.81 dB 3:05 15-Head: The Little Road To Bethlehem
DR14 -2.17 dB -20.69 dB 2:50 16-Mathias: Ave Rex: I. Ave Rex Angelorum
DR12 -2.33 dB -20.27 dB 1:48 17-II. Alleluya, A New Work Is Come On Hand
DR16 -1.67 dB -25.11 dB 4:06 18-III. There Is No Rose Of Such Virtue
DR12 -1.81 dB -20.54 dB 1:43 19-IV. Sir Christemas
DR13 -2.17 dB -20.45 dB 1:46 20-V. Ave Rex Angelorum
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Official DR value: DR14

Samplerate: 44100 Hz
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Bits per sample: 16
Bitrate: 505 kbps
Codec: FLAC
================================================================================

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Statistics for: 06-Leighton: A Christmas Caroll
Number of samples: 17025540
Duration: 6:26
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Left Right

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Avg RMS: -19.82 dB –- -20.39 dB
DR channel: 12.76 dB –- 12.06 dB
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Official DR Value: DR12

Samplerate: 44100 Hz
Channels: 2
Bits per sample: 16
Bitrate: 505 kbps
Codec: FLAC
================================================================================

The Choir of Westminster Abbey, James O'Donnell, Robert Quinney - A Christmas Caroll From Westminster Abbey (2008)

The Choir of Westminster Abbey, James O'Donnell, Robert Quinney - A Christmas Caroll From Westminster Abbey (2008)

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