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aBritish Symphonies
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W.S. Bennett, Rootham, Moeran,
Bax, Rubbra, Rawsthorne, Berkeley
Alwyn, Grace Williams, Arnold, Wordsworth. Searle, Joubert


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Support us financially by purchasing this disc from
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Choral works and part-songs
see track listing below review
The Rodolfus Choir/Ralph Allwood
rec. St Gabriel’s Church, Pimlico, London, January 2009
SIGNUM SIGCD 315 [75.47]

I first came across the Rodolfus Choir, under Ralph Allwood, when I reviewed, for another publication, their 1993 Herald recording (HAVPCD 176). This consisted of choral works by Pierre Villette and Arnold Bax including the latter’s masterpiece Mater, ora filium,considered by Bax’s great champion, Vernon Handley, to be amongst his best compositions. That Herald recording impressed me mightily. Now, as then, the Choir is made up of young singers, each of whom has been chosen from a large number of candidates for their unusually high degree of vocal ability and musicianship. They have toured extensively in the UK, Europe and, recently, in the USA; broadcast frequently and made numerous recordings. Their director, Ralph Allwood, was Director of Music at Eton College for 26 years and he is one of the UK’s most experienced and accomplished choral conductors. With such impressive credentials they could hardly fail here - and they don’t … far from it!
 
The compositions here range from the late 1880s - including the blissful ‘My love dwelt in a northern land’ - to the late 1920s with the lovely carol ‘I sing the birth’ sung mostly in unison with frequently intercepted Alleluias.
 
Elgar’s part songs have been recorded quite often in recent years and have been covered on this site so I do not propose to cover each and every one of the 21 tracks on this generously-filled album. You do however get a very good impression of the Rodolfus’s fine singing when you listen to ‘There is sweet music’, the first of the great op. 53 songs, composed in Rome at the time when the First Symphony was in gestation. This beautiful song sets words by Tennyson in eight parts and is wondrously wrought with the parts exquisitely contrasted and blended. Also composed in Rome, two years later, is another heartfelt song, ‘Go song of mine’ with that thrillingly ecstatic high climax pitched by the women’s voices.
 
The other secular songs, not mentioned in this review, are reasonably well known and all sung with technical skill and sensitivity so I will pass on to the liturgical works. Some are familiar and popular, strongly lyrical and deeply moving like ‘Ave verum corpus’, ‘O salutaris hostia’, ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘Ave maris stella’. Then there is the reverent supplication that is ‘O Hearken thou’ and the most substantial work on the album, the concluding ‘Give unto the Lord’, a setting of Psalm 29, glorious, uplifting and powerful; and deeply affecting as sung here.
 
The Rodolfus Choir shine strongly in these well-loved Elgar part-songs choral works.
 
Ian Lace 

Track listing
Go Song of Mine (1909) [4.23]
As torrents in summer (1896) [2.04]
O salutaris hostia (1887) [2.31]
My love dwelt in a northern land (1889) [4.11]
Ave verum corpus (1887) 2.50]
I sing the birth (1928) [3.51]
Love (1889) [2.23]
The Prince of Sleep (1925) [4.37]
Four Choral Songs, op. 53 (1907): There is Sweet Music [4.04]; Deep in my soul [4.43]; O wild west wind [3.10]; Owls - an Epitaph [3.00]
O Hearken Thou (1911) [3.51]
Ave Maria (1907) [2.31]
Ave maris stella (1907) [3.59]
Five Part Songs Opp 71-73 (1914): The Shower [2.29]; The Fountain [3.38]; Death on the Hills [3.55]; Love’s Tempest [3.02]; Serenade [2.03]
Give Unto the Lord (1914) [8.30]