George Vass

Cecilia McDowall: Stabat Mater; On Angel's Wing; Three Latin Motets

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This 2007 Dutton disc is the fourth recording in less than a decade dedicated to the works of English composer Cecilia McDowall. All six works here are vocal, and most of them set religious texts. As is usual in McDowall's work, the pieces here sound like most twentieth century music was never written -- don't expect agonized expressionism, angular modernism, or ironic neo-classicism. But, as is also usual in McDowall's work, the pieces sound beautiful, spiritual, and colorful -- do expect memorable melodies, heartwarming harmonies, and text settings that are singularly appropriate. Directed either by George Vass (in the Stabat Mater, On Angel's Wing, and Lonely Hearts) or Peter Broadbent (in all the rest), the performances sound deeply dedicated. Although fans of Schoenberg, Shostakovich, and Stravinsky might not go for it, McDowall's music will likely appeal to listeners who value the religious music of Herbert Howells and the vocal music of Gerald Finzi. Recorded at St. Gilels Cripplegate Church in London and produced by Michael Ponder, the digital sound here is cool, clean, and close.

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