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Five Motets; Four Carols; Missa á 3; Lauda Sion; The Beatitudes; Five Madrigals; Two Madrigals; Mass in Honour of St Teresa of Avila.
Voces Sacrae/Judy Martin.
ASV CD DCA 1093.  [66.44]
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Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis; Missa in honorem Sancti Dominici; Prelude and Fugue for Organ; Tenebrae Motets op72; Meditation for Organ; Missa Cantuariensis.
Robert Houssart (organ) Choir of St John's College, Cambridge/Christopher Robinson. NAXOS 8.555255. [65.48]
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This review should be read in conjunction with Gary Higginson's

The choral output of Edmund Rubbra was grossly under-represented on disc until the welcome arrival of these two recent releases. They create a powerful case for regarding Rubbra's compositions for choir as amongst his strongest and most personal utterances. These artless but passionate works, which come from the heart, may win over those who find his symphonies too phlegmatic and monochrome.

Of the two discs, the ASV covers the widest range, both stylistically and chronologically. Starting with Rubbra's early but still characteristic Five Motets from 1934 and ending with his movingly autumnal last major choral work, the St Teresa Mass, this highly desirable issue includes some secular writing in the form of two attractive sets of madrigals. The diversity of mood and texture celebrated on the CD is typified by the placing of Lauda Sion, Rubbra's most massive a cappella work scored for soloists and double choir next to The Beatitudes, a finely jewelled miniature for just three voices. The St Teresa Mass of 1981 sums up a lifetime's composing. Its economy of means creates the maximum effect, a sure sign of a master craftsman.

The Naxos CD concentrates on Rubbra's sacred music and it is here that the composer is at his most compelling. The powerful Magnificat and the glorious Masses are highlights on a most enjoyable disc, rounding out our knowledge of Rubbra and going a long way towards refuting accusations of thick textures in his writing which stem from his orchestral music. The two brief organ works make excellent bonuses, especially Bernard Rose's charming transcription of Rubbra's Prelude and Fugue on a theme of Cyril Scott, originally composed for piano on the occasion of the latter's 70th birthday. The recording is up to Naxos' usual high standards. The ridiculously low cost of under five pounds for an issue of this quality should make it an essential purchase.

The ASV release has the advantage of including the wonderfully luminous St Teresa Mass, yet the Naxos disc has the most consistently fine musicianship on display. If put in the invidious position of trying to choose between these two CDs of marvellously eloquent and committed choral performances, there is nothing for it but to purchase both: they will delight and refresh staunch Rubbra fans and enrich those yet to be converted.

Paul Conway

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