English collegiate choral recordings range from pure Renaissance traditional to crossover oriented, and this one by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, under Graham Ross lands right in the sweet spot with a sober but warm tone and a seriousness of intent that does not preclude contemporary compositions, including a pair by conductor Ross himself. The album is the second in a series by the choir devoted to events in the Anglican liturgical year; the first was an Advent disc, and this is entirely devoted to Passiontide, with the music linked together by Stabat mater chants. The polyphonic pieces range from Lassus and Victoria and Byrd to several layers of reimagining of the Renaissance style, from Antonio Lotti through Bruckner, Duruflé, and John Stainer up to the present day. The choir is engaged with the sound and spirit of the music and is capable of great power, even if its outdone in sheer pitch precision by some of its rivals. The easy crossover instincts of the likes of John Rutter are avoided, ironically so inasmuch as none other than Rutter is the producer of this release, and it must be said that he has exploited the ideal sound environment of London's All Hallows' Church to the hilt. In all, an unusually well-unified and persuasive choral release.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|St Johns Passion|