0 Christ Church Cathedral School graded as ‘Excellent’ in recent inspection

Choristers in Tom Quad

Christ Church Cathedral School has emerged with flying colours from a recent inspection. The School received a glowing report from the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) in which they were awarded the highest grade – Excellent – for both Academic Achievement and Personal Development.

The Dean of Christ Church, the Very Reverend Professor Martyn Percy, Chair of Governors, has welcomed this outstanding report: “The School has rightly been praised for its excellence”, he said. “All the staff and pupils, under the leadership of the Headmaster, Richard Murray, will be very pleased that all the achievements of the School and its ethos have been singled out for particular mention. We warmly welcome the report, and all that it affirms.”

Please click here to read an article about this in the Oxford Times.

0 The Sun Most Radiant features on BBC Radio 3 Record Review

The Sun Most Radiant - cover artwork of CD by Christ Church Cathedral Choir

The performance draws you into its heart…

Andrew McGregor, BBC Record Review, 18 February 2017

We are delighted that for the second time in four months, Christ Church Cathedral Choir has been featured on BBC Radio 3’s Record Review, on this occasion for the fourth volume of music from the Eton Choirbook, The Sun Most Radiant. To hear the feature on BBC iPlayer, please click here, and you will find the feature at c.1:36:20.

The other recording recently featured on Record Review was Francesco Durante’s Requiem in C minor. Please click here for further details.

 

0 Review of Durante Requiem in Gramophone

durante-requiem-cd-cover

We are delighted to receive another great review of our latest CD! Please see below or click here for the online version.

Francesco Durante (1684-1755) made a profound mark on musical culture in early-18th-century Naples. His pupils at the city’s prestigious conservatories included Pergolesi, Traetta, Piccinni and Paisiello. A renowned composer of sacred music, Durante wrote at least three Requiems; an elaborate setting in C minor dated 1746 was probably written for Rome’s S Giacomo degli Spagnoli (in the Piazza Navona) to commemorate the recently deceased Philip V of Spain. More than 50 manuscript copies are dotted around the world, some of them written out as late as 1871, but the work has never been published. It has been edited for this recording by Stephen Darlington, who praises the way Durante’s music combines ‘mastery of counterpoint with an elegance of melody, a richness of harmony and a structural instinct’.

Sometimes singing in five parts and elsewhere in eight, Christ Church Cathedral Choir are on superb form in this skilfully woven music. The assured boy choristers are balanced elegantly with the unforced ease of the adult lay clerks. Durante’s string accompaniments are astutely varied and played by Oxford Baroque with perfect sincerity and stylistic finesse; an obvious dramatic trick is reeling downward spirals that insinuate hints of fire and brimstone in ‘Dies irae’ and ‘Quid sum miser’. The only departure from economical orchestral scoring is a subtle pair of natural horns used to splendid effect in ‘Tuba mirum’, an attractive soprano aria sung limpidly by Alexandra Kidgell. The plaintive quintet of soloists (drawn from The Sixteen), anguished choral supplications and Oxford Baroque’s players are articulately expressive in the vivid contrasts during ‘Ingemisco tamquam reus’. The suspension-laden passages for solo voices in ‘Lacrimosa’, unfurling choral lines in ‘Benedictus’ and imaginative harmonic twists in ‘Libera me’ all reveal hints of why the 18th-century music historian Charles Burney acclaimed Durante as the greatest harmonist of his time.

David Vickers, Gramophone, January 2017

 

0 Ghislaine Reece-Trapp shortlisted in this year’s Radio 3 Christmas Carol Competition

Ghislaine Reece-Trapp

A carol newly composed by Ghislaine Reece-Trapp, former Organ Scholar at Christ Church, has been shortlisted in this year’s Radio 3 Christmas Carol Competition. Radio 3 challenged amateur composers to create music for a modern version of a medieval English poem: ‘Alleluia! A new work is come on hand’. They were looking for carols of up to four minutes long written for four voices. Ghislaine’s entry can be heard at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4GqSnwVKhmb5DtNl7XFTBDF/radio-3-carol-competition-2016 (the 4th of 6th finalists).

Voting closes at 5pm tomorrow, 21st December.

0 The Sun Most Radiant – ‘utterly cool brilliance which blossoms into transcendent radiance’

The Sun Most Radiant - cover artwork of CD by Christ Church Cathedral Choir

We are delighted to receive two further appreciative reviews of our recent release, The Sun Most Radiant, Music from the Eton Choirbook, Vol. 4, in BBC Music Magazine and in Gramophone.

The Eton Choirbook, compiled around 1515, contains around 60 works by composers associated not only with Eton but also with the Chapel Royal and other institutions. It has never been recorded complete (a five-CD set by The Sixteen is the most comprehensive), and this latest disc from the ongoing Avie selection contains two first recordings – Browne’s Salve Regina II and Horwood’s Gaude flore virginali. These really are brilliantly composed works, and Stephen Darlington and the Christchurch Choir understand them better than most. In the case of Browne’s Salve Regina I, for example, the long, rhapsodic lines are given the time, direction and acoustic space to unfold organically and with clarity. They transpose the piece up a tone, as do The Sixteen on Coro, which gives it brightness, but the latter scramble through it in 11 minutes while Christchurch take 15. A similar deft spaciousness comes in this version of Stratford’s Magnificat when compared with the Tonus Peregrinus attempt on Naxos. Of the two premiere recordings, the Horwood item works best with the choir representing the trio sections with an utterly cool brilliance which blossoms into transcendent radiance at the entry of the full choir.

Anthony Pryer, BBC Music Magazine, December 2016

With this instalment of music from the Eton Choirbook, the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral sets out to rival The Sixteen’s five-volume anthology from the 1990s. Already it seems to me that they surpass it technically – which is remarkable considering the inevitable changes of personnel that time imposes on a choir with boy trebles – and interpretatively. As I noted of Vol 3 (11/14), they have also worked their way through those Eton pieces that had not been recorded before, and the quality of their performances has changed my appreciation of several ‘minor’ composers for the better.

Volume 4 is the most satisfying of the set since the first. Even by the standards of previous instalments, Stephen Darlington’s tempi are surprisingly relaxed, especially in duple-time sections. Judged by the clock one might even call them slow, but the textural detail is so clear that the abiding impression is of deliberation rather than ponderousness. The trebles have stamina and poise, and they understand how to shape their lines, as may be heard in John Browne’s Salve regina I and William Horwood’s Gaude flore virginali (the latter being new to the catalogue).

The adult cast is perhaps the strongest of the set so far: their reading of the Magnificat by one ‘William, Monk of Stratford’ is more nuanced than The Sixteen’s, so that a work that had seemed to me relevatively undistinguished comes across far more favourably. Browne’s Salve regina I (with trebles) has had several fine recordings but his Salve regina II for adult singers is the only one of his completely transmitted pieces that had never been committed to disc. Less immediately striking than its counterpart, the subtle interplay of its lines is increasingly absorbing the more one listens to it. Had more of Browne’s music survived, I have little doubt that he would be considered the equal of Dunstable and Taverner, and possibly even Tallis. As it is, no other Eton composer equals his technical resource or imagination. But there are still a couple of his motets left to record: dare we hope for a Vol 5?

Fabrice Fitch, Gramophone ‘Editor’s Choice’, November 2016

0 Durante Requiem in The Observer and on BBC Radio 3 Record Review

durante-requiem-cd-cover

We are delighted that our newly-released recording of Francesco Durante’s Requiem in C minor and Organ Concert in Bb has been so well received. It has been highly praised in The Observer and has been featured in Radio 3’s Record Review. See below for more details!

This first collaboration between Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral Choir, members of The Sixteen and Oxford Baroque – a tremendous combination, much to be encouraged – reveals Francesco Durante’s never-before published Requiem in C minor in all its 18th-century glory.Stephen Darlington has produced a performing edition, drawing on manuscript copies scattered across Europe, and conducts the elegant, richly melodic score with unique understanding. The soloists are uniformly excellent, and the string playing as crisp and alert as the fresh young voices of the Christ Church trebles.

Stephen Pritchard, The Observer, 30 October 2016
(Click here to see the online version of this review.)

Click here to listen to the feature in Radio 3’s Record Review with Andrew MacGregor, and to hear the Tuba Mirum movement being played (go to 1:34:40 for the start of the feature).

For further details about the recording including a full track list and purchase information, please click here.

0 FORTHCOMING CD: ‘FRANCESCO DURANTE – REQUIEM’: AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER NOW

durante-requiem-cd-cover

We are delighted to announce that our latest CD will be released on 28 October, and is now available to pre-order online (to place an order or see the full track list, please click here).

In an exciting new collaboration, Christ Church Cathedral Choir joins forces with soloists from The Sixteen and Oxford Baroque on this new recording of Francesco Durante’s Requiem Mass in C minor.

Despite its enduring popularity in the 18th century this beautiful and majestic work was never published but survives through over 50 manuscript copies scattered across Europe. It is a remarkable work which can justly be described as one of the most important orchestral Requiem settings of the 18th century. This is the premiere recording of Stephen Darlington’s new edition of the work which shows Durante to be a composer of considerable skill and invention, who combined his mastery of counterpoint with an elegance of melody, a richness of harmony and an imaginative instinct for structure.

This album also features Durante’s exquisite Organ Concerto in B flat major – a rare example of an Italian keyboard concerto of the period – performed here by celebrated organist, Clive Driskill-Smith.

Christ Church Cathedral Choir
Soloists from The Sixteen
Oxford Baroque
Clive Driskell-Smith – Organ
Stephen Darlington – Conductor

0 The Sun Most Radiant in Early Music Review

The Sun Most Radiant - cover artwork of CD by Christ Church Cathedral Choir

We are delighted to receive another glowing review of The Sun Most Radiant!

The fourth volume in the Avie’s superb exploration of the Eton Choirbook brings us two superb Salve Reginas by John Browne, the Magnificat by William, Monk of Stratford and William Horwood’s Gaude flore virginali. Again and again I was stuck by Stephen Darlington’s affinity with this music: his instinctive choice of effective tempi, his effortless transitions from section to section and his masterly overview of these large-scale works. Impressive too, as in the previous volumes, is the ability of his singers to transition effortlessly from tutti to solo singers and back again. A cathedral choir is an entity which like a vintage wine changes flavour over time, and one factor in this is the unpredictable boy treble section. Some listeners to Browne’s first Salve Regina may feel that the solo and tutti boy treble sound is not quite as sweet as on the choir’s previous recordings in the series, but to my mind this is just an aspect of the natural evolution of any choir’s sound. The more familiar of the two Browne Salve reginas is for the standard five-part ‘Eton’ choir and the Oxford choristers rise well to its challenges. The other setting, remarkably receiving its premiere recording here, is set for TTTBarB and also proves to be a stunning masterpiece, muscular and dynamic. The Monk of Stratford’s Magnificat is also for adult male voices, and it too allows the remarkable lower voices of the choir to shine. William Horwood’s SATTB setting of Gaude flore virginali, also receiving its premiere recording, proves to be a work of profound inspiration and invention. To my ear the treble contribution here sounds more mellow too. It is remarkable to think that music of such superlative quality is still being rediscovered, and full congratulations are due to Avie and to Stephen Darlington and his choir for their ongoing project.

D James Ross, Early Music Review, 14 October 2016

0 Another review of our latest CD: “essential” – “burnished” – “radiant”!

The Sun Most Radiant - cover artwork of CD by Christ Church Cathedral Choir

“This … is essential in terms of both content and performance quality. It represents the fourth installment in the Christ Church Cathedral Choir’s ongoing survey of English choral music from the Eton Choirbooks, and yet again the program features two world-premiere recordings: a previously-unheard Salve Regina setting by John Browne, and the motet Gaude flore virginali by the early and obscure composer William Horwood. As usual, the recorded sound is burnished and radiant, the choral blend is colorful but smooth, and the singers’ intonation is solid. All libraries with classical collections should be acquiring all of the discs in this series as they appear.”

Rick Anderson, CD HotList, 3 October 2016