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William HAYES (1708-1777)
Ceremonial Oxford – Music for the Georgian University

The Passions: Overture [4:04]
The Passions: Chorus - ‘Thy wide extended pow’r’ [5:18]
O Worship the Lord [8:17]
Psalm 23: Lo! My Shepherd’s hand divine (1773) [3:40]
Lord, how long wilt thou be angry [3:40]
Organ Concerto in G (late 1730s) [14:52]
Save, Lord, and hear us [6:28]
Lord, thou hast been our refuge [5:45]
Psalm 120: To God I cry’d with anguish stung (1773) [3:04]
O be joyful in God, O ye lands [5:54]
The Fall of Jericho: Sinfonia [5:30]
The Fall of Jericho: Chorus - Whom then does Jericho deride - Will she in gates of brass rejoice [3:24]
The Hundredth Psalm [3:34]
William WALOND (1719-1768)
Voluntary in G (c. 1752) [5:30]
Edward Higginbottom, Rory Moules (organists)
The Choir of Keble College, Oxford
Instruments of Time and Truth/Matthew Martin (organ soloist)
rec. 2017, Keble College Chapel, Oxford
Full texts included
CRD RECORDS 3534 [79:12]

It came as a pleasant and unexpected surprise to find that the first review disc to fall out of the March package bore the familiar blue logo (in groovy 70s font) of the CRD label, which clearly still exists and continues to emphasise quality over quantity. I hold it entirely responsible for my Fauré addiction: one stalwart of the label has been the greatly under-rated pianist Paul Crossley, who recorded the complete piano works back in the day; these were followed by wonderful discs of the songs with Sarah Walker, Tom Krause and a youthful Malcolm Martineau. Another CRD revelation was Thomas Rajna’s Granados, but I digress. The present issue contains a generous conspectus of the music of William Hayes, who was born a generation later than Handel, which makes him broadly contemporary with other English figures such as Charles Avison and Thomas Arne, although I would argue his music has little in common with either of these more celebrated figures. Hayes clearly admired Handel and while his music seems to incorporate elements of that master’s style Hayes is ultimately his own man. His music seems neither as ‘Italian’ as Avison’s nor as heart-on-sleeve ‘English’ as Arne’s, Indeed it seems to hark back to the Odes and Masques of Blow and Purcell while his anthems anticipate the likes of Samuel Wesley. Regardless of these perceptions the selections from his output presented here scrub up most appealingly.

Hayes will forever be associated with the city of Oxford, where he was organist at Magdalen College before his appointment as the University’s Professor of Music in 1741. He was responsible for the construction of the Holywell Music Room (funded by public subscription and opened in 1748) which remains the oldest functioning purpose-built music venue in Europe. Hayes expert Simon Heighes has provided the fascinating booklet note which emphasises the importance Hayes attached to ceremonial music, inevitable given his role at the centre of the musical life of this renowned academic city.

In fact Hayes’ music is better represented in the catalogues than one might imagine. Early music royalty Anthony Rooley and Evelyn Tubb have released a couple of generously filled discs of Hayes on Glossa (with the Basle Schola Cantorum); The Passions in full (GCD922501) and a set of six cantatas (GCD922510). Additionally there is a disc of concertos (including the organ concerto from the present disc) available on Capriccio, also involving Basle forces (CAPRICCIO 71135-review here). What is it about Basle and Hayes? Do the musical cognoscenti in that lovely part of Switzerland see something that we Brits have missed over the years? Hopefully this release, performed by superb musicians and singers resident in Hayes’ own manor will help to redress the balance.

The programme of this disc seems to be arch like. At its beginning and end are extracts from Hayes’ two most ambitious works ; The Passions-An Ode to Music was renowned for decades (its text by William Collins is even namechecked in Dickens’ Great Expectations) while the earlier oratorio The Fall of Jericho seems to be experiencing something of a revival after 270 years of neglect. At the heart of this selection is the Organ Concerto in G, while the programme is fleshed out by a number of anthems (both rousing and sensitive), psalm settings and an organ voluntary by William Walond who was one of Hayes’ trusted lieutenants.

The excerpts from The Passions encouraged me to seek out the Glossa recording of the full work. I find it amazing that it is not better known, at least in the UK. Furthermore the notes to that issue reveal the work received its first full modern performance in Bogota, Colombia! While Handel’s influence is undeniable, Hayes’ own voice permeates throughout and seems fresh and original, especially in terms of the percussion! If Handel was the great dramatist, Hayes’ was more of a word-painter whose great compositional strength seems to be in the evocation of mood. While the Glossa disc is certainly worth hearing in terms of experiencing the whole work, there is a lightness and vigour in Matthew Martin’s readings here that I think really illuminates the essential core of this music while projecting a quintessential Englishness that deeply satisfies. There is palpable enthusiasm in both the playing and the singing. The delightfully named ‘Instruments of Time and Truth’ are no scratch undergraduate band; the booklet tells us it consists of instrumentalists who live in the environs of Oxford many of whom have day jobs performing with crack HIP ensembles such as the AAM, the OAE and the English Baroque Soloists. As for the Choir of Keble College, they are quite superb and every bit the equal of the more frequently recorded Oxbridge choirs. I would love to hear these forces perform the whole of The Passions or for that matter The Fall of Jericho on the basis of the extracts here. After 250 years of relative neglect, perhaps Hayes’ star is finally on the rise. The Corelli Orchestra under Warwick Cole gave the first full performance of this latter work since 1748 in Cheltenham last November (see Simon Heighes' interesting preview here) – while Holland Baroque will also be performing it in Utrecht in April 2018.

The anthems and psalms are sung with tact and clarity and vividly recorded. Lord, how long wilt thou be angry harks back to William Byrd’s Emendemus in melius whose music Hayes has woven around a contemporary English translation of Psalm 79. A further example of his skill at tone-painting emerges in the chorus at the end of O Worship the Lord in the setting of the words “Let the Sea make a noise, and all that therein is” with its ornate and colourful organ accompaniment. Tempestuous this music certainly is! The familiar Hundredth Psalm is adorned with a stately and individual orchestral accompaniment.

The Organ Concerto in G was originally written for harpsichord – indeed it is thought to have been the first English concertante work for that instrument. It’s a lively and colourful work in three movements, of which the theme of the Minuetto Allegro finale is especially memorable. The concerto is played with great zest by Matthew Martin and his splendidly focused band. This work’s neglect seems undeserved; inevitably it has met a similar fate to others across the generations by composers who unfortunately found themselves to be working in the shadows of giants. (Hayes was actually a great advocate of Handel’s work to the apparent detriment of his own.) Martin also performs Walond’s Voluntary in G which makes for a pleasant diversion but is not especially memorable.

In my view William Hayes’ music is ripe for reappraisal: the conductor Warwick Cole introduced this brief film about the composer prior to that Cheltenham performance last year – it includes an excerpt of the Organ Concerto in its original harpsichord guise. The performances on this disc are full of life - whether the music is poignant, stately or energetic. There is nothing remotely ‘provincial’ about these works despite the disc’s title. Let us indeed hope that Hayes is ‘coming home’, and that CRD might be persuaded to record The Fall of Jericho.

Richard Hanlon

Previous reviews: Johan van Veen ~ Maximilian Burgdörfer
 

 




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