One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

Spotless Rose - Hymns to the Virgin Mary
Stephen PAULUS (b. 1949)
Splendid Jewel [3:45]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
A Hymn to the Virgin [2:41]
Cecilia MACDOWELL (b. 1951)
Three Latin Motets [9:05]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
A Spotless Rose [3:39]
Javier BUSTO (b. 1949)
Two Marian Pieces [7:11]
Healey WILLAN (1880-1968)
Three Liturgical Motets [6:11]
Jean Belmont FORD (b. 1939)
Electa [21:14]
Phoenix Chorale/Charles Bruffy
rec. 27-29 May 2005, Camelback Bible Church, Paradise Valley, Arizona, USA. DSD
Original texts and English translations included
CHANDOS CHSA5056 [54:20]
Experience Classicsonline

At least two previous recordings for Chandos by this professional choir, previously known as the Phoenix Bach Choir, have been reviewed on Music Web International. In partnership with the Kansas City Chorale they have recorded music by Rheinberger (see review) and a particularly warmly received disc of music by Grechaninov (see review). Now, renamed the Phoenix Chorale and once again under the direction of their Artistic Director, Charles Bruffy, they appear by themselves in a recital of music in honour of the Virgin Mary.
The venue for the recording is the same one in which the Rheinberger disc was set down, namely the Camelback Bible Church, Paradise Valley, and the combination of that building’s acoustic and the skill of the Chandos engineers has produced a very pleasing sound – which I heard as a conventional CD - in which warm ambience and detail are nicely combined. The singing is of a very high order throughout the recital. The choir consists of twenty-four singers, six to each part, and if there are any lapses in blend or tuning then I couldn’t spot them. The choral sound is consistently, clear, well focused and bright. In short, it’s a pleasure to listen to this choir.
The musical programme also gives much pleasure. There’s a judicious leavening of familiar items, including a fluid account of Britten’s early Hymn to the Virgin and Howells’ rather ubiquitous A Spotless Rose. The latter is the one disappointment in the recital. The pace is just a touch too deliberate and this gorgeous piece sounds, for once, to have feet of clay.
The remainder of the programme is less familiar. I’d never encountered the music of the Spanish composer, Javier Busto, but I was much taken with his pair of Marian pieces. Ave Maris Stella, here receiving its first recording, exhibits delicate beauty, especially in the solo soprano line. The music of Ave Maria is much simpler. It’s a gentle, lovely setting and. like its companion, well worth hearing. That’s true also of Celia McDowall’s Three Latin Motets. I’ve come across these settings before on a Dutton Epoch CD (CDLX 7197) and I was impressed with them on that occasion. They make a similarly positive impression here and I’d single out for special mention the beautifully blended performance of the first of the set, ‘Ave Regina’ and also the beguiling clarity and sweetness of the women’s voices in the second motet, ‘Ave Maria’
The British composer, Healey Willan, dedicated most of his working life to the service of church music in Canada, writing a substantial body of music for worship. He wrote in a conservative vein but his music is always effective and I like his music very much, not least for its sincerity and directness of communication. The three short motets offered here are pretty typical of his style. These are gentle pieces and Bruffy and his singers make an excellent job of them.
The main work in the programme is the four-movement Electa of Jean Belmont Ford. Commissioned by Charles Bruffy’s other choir, the Kansas City Chorale, the work dates from 1995. The scoring is somewhat unusual in that the choir is unaccompanied, save for a bass drum and a single timpano, both played by the same player. The notes state that the composer “draws on various liturgical texts to weave a tapestry of praise to the Virgin Mary.” However, only the last two movements are settings of Marian texts. The work is sung in Latin.
The opening movement, ‘De Profundis’, is a dark and austere setting of words from Psalm 130 for men’s voices and drum. The second movement combines the verse from Psalm 51 that constitutes the antiphon ‘Asperges me’ and lines from the Nicene Creed. The third section, ‘Ave, dulcissima Maria’ is much warmer in tone than either of the preceding movements – the composer describes the music as “euphoric.” The final, and most extended, section is a setting of the Magnificat. This begins with a florid, dramatic soprano solo, underpinned by strongly rhythmic drumming and interjections from the male voices. When the full choir enters the music is vigorous and celebratory but before long the tempo relaxes and the mood becomes much more thoughtful. The concluding doxology is highly effective. At the start the inspiration of plainchant is very evident but the conclusion is much more vigorous and ecstatic – the score is marked “Triumphantly”. Electa is a most interesting work and this first recording of it is highly accomplished and very successful.
This is an excellent disc, well worth the attention of collectors of choral music. It’s a little surprising that it’s had to wait over three years for release but its appearance now is very welcome.
John Quinn


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.