Just in time for the Easter season in 2015 came this release from the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, with many pieces setting texts from Psalm 47 ("God is gone up with a merry noise"). It's certainly in the vein of seasonal releases done by this choir and other British collegiate choirs in the past. But Ascendit Deus distinguishes itself not only through expert singing, but through a program that hangs together very well. Conductor Graham Ross sets weightier pieces, including his own Ascendo ad Patrem meum (track 9) against shorter, more limpid, joyous works. The former group includes the world-premiere Viri Galilaei, by film composer Patrick Gowers, reorchestrated by Ross. That's a roundabout origin for a type of program that tends to favor tradition, but the big dramatic strokes of this piece make satisfying sense in this context. The shorter works are likewise intelligently chosen, with American composer Nico Muhly making perhaps his first appearance on a program of this sort with Let all the world in every corner sing (track 5). The program grows into double choir material in the middle and then contracts back, another satisfying thread. There are very few chestnuts, but there are enough, including Vaughan Williams' O clap your hands, for traditionalists to orient themselves. In general, a state-of-the-art seasonal sacred recording, beautifully engineered.
Review by James Manheim