The Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge, generally issues one album per year, and the group is all about consistency: once music directors are in place, they tend to stay for quite a while. This is the case with Andrew Nethsingha, who has been director since 2007. By playing to all the group's strengths, this 2019 album may be an especially good choice for those wanting to sample this venerable, and ancient (founded 1670) collegiate choir. There is the rich, and even at times gutsy, sound of the group's boy sopranos (sample Gerald Finzi's God is Gone Up), diverging sharply from many other English choirs with boys. There is the clarity of articulation despite the choir's moderately large size. Getting 20 boys to sing texts that are understandable to listeners is no mean feat on Nethsingha's part. There is fine engineering work by Signum Classics, in the St. John's College Chapel itself. And finally, there is the group's unusual variety of repertory. The Locus iste of the title is the motet by Anton Bruckner, almost invariably performed along with other a cappella choral works by Bruckner. It gains new resonances when bracketed by Britten, and contemporary British composer Giles Swayne; there are also pieces by Poulenc and Rachmaninov. The Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge, is especially noted for performing continental European works. Nethsingha proposes an unusual tradition field that includes 20th century British music, a bit of Americana from Ned Rorem, big works from Parry and Stanford, a holy minimalist John Tavener piece, and more. It sounds as though it's all over the map, but in fact it hangs together wonderfully. Highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, Op. 31|