New College Choir, Oxford / Edward Higginbottom

Illumina: Music of Light

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Britain's collegiate male choirs, with boys on the upper parts, generally stick to a fixed, rather sober repertory of Renaissance music, sacred music by the likes of Stanford, and perhaps some contemporary worship music. It's unexpected to see the venerable Choir of New College Oxford in a program with unabashed crossover aims, singing slow music linked together by a nebulous, quasi-mystical theme. The good news is that the choir and conductor Edward Higginbottom execute this program as well as others they have done. The program ranges from chant and Palestrina to John Rutter and the contemporary American composers Morton Lauridsen and Eric Whitacre, whose growing prominence on the east side of the pond is all to the good. A couple of works have served as themes for films or television programs, and a few others, like Franck's Panis angelicus, are staples of this kind of collection. But for the most part the music is fresh and well put together, with unexpected composers like Joseph Rheinberger adding subtle shades to the palette. The boys of the New College Choir are tough to beat, and there's just enough music to show them off (hear James MacMillan's Christus vincit, track 8) without distracting from the perfect balance of the Lauridsen pieces or the melodic sentiment of Rutter. The result is a collection that ought to appeal to its target audience interested in mass-market spirituality, yet one of which the singers can be proud.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 08:09
Inspector Morse
2 04:05
3 08:01
Vespers
4 03:13
Vesperae solennes de confessore, K. 339
5 04:20
6 02:39
7 03:23
8 06:42
9 04:00
10 02:48
Missa Brevis
11 03:35
12 06:17
Stabat Mater
13 04:16
14 02:38
15 06:24
16 02:51
17 02:46
blue highlight denotes track pick