Timothy Brown / Clare College Choir, Cambridge

Vaughan Williams: Sacred Choral Music

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These are very well sung, very faithfully interpreted performances of eight sacred choral works by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Under the direction of Timothy Brown, the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, sings with energy, enthusiasm, and even occasional excitement, and its diction and articulation are excellent. Despite these virtues, however, this Naxos disc is largely disappointing. For one thing, the choir sounds like it numbers in the hundreds. This may be the reality of the situation or it may be the recording, but whatever the cause, the result is that the textures are thick, the harmonies turgid, and the overall sound far too heavy for the music. The interpretations, while faithful to the music, emphasize the few sentimental aspects of the scores at the expense of the many more truly spiritual aspects, and the consequence are frequently dire. Compare, for example, this version of the Mass in G minor with either Matthew Best and the Corydon Singers on Hyperion, or David Willcocks' and the King's College Choir of Cambridge. In all three cases, the work is well sung and faithfully interpreted, but while Best and Willcocks' versions are deeply moving, Brown's is merely effective. In sum, then, a recording only for Vaughan Williams' fans who have to have every recording of every work he ever wrote.

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