This collection carries the subtitle "The Music of Roxanna Panufnik," and indeed it would make a good place to start with the popular contemporary British composer. On the surface level, her trademark crimson lipstick is prominently displayed. And the music represents two distinct registers in Panufnik's music, the full-blown style of the Westminster Mass and a somewhat simpler and less chromatic idiom exemplified by the short hymns of the set Angels Sing!, originally written in Polish for a London neighborhood church but here performed in English translation. At a more specific level still, much of the music on the album shows the tendency for Panufnik's music to keep evolving after its premiere. The Westminster Mass, which is divided up in the program in an approximation of liturgical practice, exists in versions for organ and for orchestra, but the present version, for organ, bells, and harp along with the choir, is especially fortunate; the mass is structured, both in obvious ways and in subtler ones, around church-bell patterns, and the harp brings these out beautifully. It's an especially effective presentation of Panufnik's style, which can be quite dissonant but relies on the expansion of basic materials in a way that's easily accessible. The version of the Ave Maria heard here is also new, and in fact was made expressly for this recording. This is another high point, showcasing Panufnik's distinctive and often personal readings of familiar texts; in place of the familiar Schubertian mood here, she offers a setting that's both mystical and occasionally explosive. Panufnik's own notes are informative and enjoyably revealing; she explains her response to the Ave Maria by referring to her own feelings on learning she was pregnant. The performances by the awkwardly named London Oratory School Schola Boys Choir are fine, and the Regent label's engineers likewise deserve major props for the absolutely clear sound they achieve at Hampstead's Parish Church, a necessity for following, say, Panufnik's setting of the Deus, Deus meus in the Westminster Mass, where the sectioning of Latin and English serves as a structural element. A top-notch job all around.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim