Corydon Singers / Matthew Best

Herbert Howells: Requiem; Ralph Vaughan Williams: Mass in G minor

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Herbert Howells reported that the experience that convinced him to pursue a career in music was hearing a performance of Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis when he was 18. It's perhaps no coincidence that when he began composing his 1936 Requiem in response to the death of his nine-year-old son, the distinctive sonorities of the Tallis Fantasia subliminally found their way into the opening movement of this very personal and deeply felt work. Each of the movements, with texts taken from the psalms and other scriptural and liturgical sources, uses rich, late-Romantic harmonies and is suffused with gentleness, even serenity. A similar tonal language characterizes the motet Take him, earth, for cherishing, written as a memorial for John F. Kennedy, but it is a more overtly anguished work, with somewhat more astringent harmonies. Corydon Singers, led by Matthew Best, bring the music a tone that is pure and bright and warm. They maintain a spirit of restraint in the Requiem, but their performance is nuanced enough that the consistently tender mood never palls and never becomes sentimental. In the motet, they are freer to let loose, and their impassioned outbursts are powerful but disciplined. The same can be said for their performances of Vaughan Williams' Mass in G minor and Te Deum in G, works that have considerably more musical variety than the Howells Requiem, but which, for all their loveliness, don't reach the same depth of feeling. Hyperion's sound is nicely balanced and life-like, with an excellent sense of presence.

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