Gentlemen of St. John's / St. John's Voices / Graham Walker

William Mathias: Choral Music

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Composer William Mathias, active in the second half of the 20th century, composed a good deal of choral music, some of it in his native Welsh. It's quite varied, and although it has been somewhat neglected since later crowd-pleasers came along, it's worth a revival on the evidence here. Best of all are a pair of secular works, the Learsongs of 1988, and the Riddles of the preceding year. The texts, by Edward Lear in the former case and from medieval literature (adapted into modern English) in the latter, are humorous, but the music, in addition to being witty, thoroughly inhabits the subject matter of the text. These pieces are both world recorded premieres, and it's hard to think of anything they resemble (and they don't particularly resemble each other). They're worth the price of admission by themselves, but the sacred choral works are equally distinctive. They share a general style, with modal and quartal harmonies, but each one -- the joyous A May Magnificat, Op. 79, No. 2, the Mozartian Ave verum corpus, the lively A Babe is Born, Op. 55 -- has its own flavor. The Welsh-language Y nefoedd sydd yn datgan gogoniant Duw (The heavens declare the glory of God) packs a lot into its nine minutes, and the entire album is full of surprises. The music fits the voices of the St. John's Voices and the Gentlemen of St. John's, less formal than their more venerable collegiate choir counterparts, just perfectly, and director Graham Walker keeps his young choristers focused on the text. This is a fine addition to British choral collections.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 03:22 Amazon
Jesus College Canticles, Op. 53
2 04:10 Amazon
3 02:52 Amazon
Learsongs
4 01:49 Amazon
5 03:51 Amazon
6 02:31 Amazon
7 05:30 Amazon
8 02:44 Amazon
9 08:58 Amazon
10 04:35 Amazon
Riddles
11 03:37 Amazon
12
II.
03:20 Amazon
13 01:41 Amazon
14
IV.
02:00 Amazon
15
V.
02:03 Amazon
16
VI.
04:07 Amazon
17 04:48 Amazon
18 09:45 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick