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An English Coronation, 1902-1953
Simon Russell Beale (Archbishop)
Rowan Pierce (soprano)
Matthew Martin (organ)
Chetham’s Symphonic Brass Ensemble
Gabrieli Consort; Gabrieli Roar; Gabrieli Players/Paul McCreesh
rec. Ely Cathedral, 23-25 July 2018; Royal Masonic School Chapel, Rickmansworth, 26-27 July 2018; St Nicholas the Martyr, Kentish Town, 6 September 2018. DDD.
Texts and order of service included
Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from hyperion-records.co.uk.
SIGNUM SIGCD569 [81:18 + 78:03]

My review of this remarkable recording was converted to html and all ready to go when John Quinn beat me to the draw. Like him, I’ve made this a Recommended recording; it’s Paul McCreesh’s most ambitious and best in a series of reconstructions which began with A Venetian Coronation – so good that he did it twice, for Virgin (no longer available) and for Signum. I think this beats them all, which is very high praise indeed. Better still, it introduces us to McCreesh’s young group ‘Roar’

Since then, Simon Thompson and Marc Rochester have also reviewed this release, both nominating it for the ‘Recommended’ tag. I’m not going to do detailed comparisons with my colleagues. My only slight disagreement with them is that I don’t think that most will want the spoken sections every time; downloading gives the opportunity to ‘jump’ those sections and even to save two versions, with and without. I seem to be in a minority, however, on this point.

This is the latest and the most adventurous of Paul McCreesh’s reconstructions of notable occasions, which have encompassed the 1595 Ascension Day service in Venice (twice – most recently A New Venetian Coronation, Signum SIGCD287 – review review review DL News), a Lutheran Christmas Mass with music by Prętorius and others (4791757, mid-price or 4399312, budget-price download – review of earlier release), Venetian Vespers (Monteverdi and contemporaries, 4761868, Presto special CD or download), Schütz Lutheran Vespers for Epiphany (4630462, budget-price download – review), Venetian Easter Mass (4534272, full-price download) and Christmas in Venice (4713332, Giovanni Gabrieli et al, budget-price download – review) (all from DG Archiv). There’s now even a 2-LP version of the New Venetian Coronation for vinyl fans.

I hesitate to say that these pale before the new release because they are substantial achievements in their own right and I’m sorry to see that most of them are now download only, in some cases minus the booklets with the texts. The original Virgin Classics Venetian Coronation is no longer available in any form, but the remake amply compensates.

Not having been around at the time of any of the earlier ceremonies which McCreesh and his team have recreated, I find it slightly weird to be taken back to the events of June 1953, which I witnessed on my grandparents’ 9-inch television in grainy black and white and later in the cinema in glorious colour. At least I saw something on the day, unlike my favourite uncle, a policeman on crowd duty, who had to stand for hours in the rain and see nothing of the great events. With the news of the ‘conquest’ of Everest by a Commonwealth citizen and his Sherpa kept back to be revealed on the day, it seemed as if the post-war gloom was over at last. Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana, specially commissioned for the event, just didn’t hit the mood of the moment and came to be appreciated only much later.

The music on this recording seemed much more fitting to the occasion. If some of it now seems to us jingoistic, much is also reflective – Tallis’s simple setting of the Litany, for example – and the mood of the time should be borne in mind. Perhaps few modern Venetians would choose the music of Monteverdi, the Gabrielis or their contemporaries as their favourite fare, but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying the other McCreesh reconstructions or the new turning back of the clock to the four coronations of the last century.

In fact, though this is a very different project from McCreesh’s previous offerings with the Gabrieli Consort, it’s just as successful. There was already no need to assert their successe their successes outside the period of music with which we normally associate them. We have had their performances of the music of Elgar, Howells, Parry and Walton (Signum SIGCD281 – review with links to three other reviews, including two Recordings of the Month), in a programme of the quiet music of mourning. Though it’s fair to say that none of these composers, or the likes of Stanford on the Coronation recording, are what we think of as their staple fare, that doesn’t prevent them from responding idiomatically to them. Incidentally, my only serious reservation about that release in DL Roundup July 2012/1, the lack of a booklet from the now defunct classicsonline, is easily rectified by downloading from hyperion-records.co.uk.

More recently they have emphasised their credentials in the music of Stanford, Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Howells, among others, in Music of Silence (SIGCD490 – review review review). I seem not to have reviewed that, so let me add that it too can be downloaded in 16- and 24-bit sound, with pdf booklet, from hyperion-records.co.uk.

Having caught up with that recording in 24-bit sound, I can only echo the high praise of my colleagues and add that all the qualities that they have mentioned and which McCreesh and his team have displayed in those recordings of earlier repertoire are to be found even more in the new Coronation release. As expected, they shine in the music of Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons, Handel and that under-rated Purcell pupil Croft: their Zadok the Priest (tr.21) is as stimulating as any that I know. Purists need not stand back from the Handel; there’s no attempt to reconstruct what it might have sounded like in 1953, apart from the employment of a ‘big’ organ sound. May we now have the complete Handel Coronation Anthems from this team, please?

For the early twentieth-century composers, on the other hand, a kind of authenticity has been sought in performances approximating to how their music would have sounded in their time, including the use of instruments of the period. The dividends are less than with historic instruments in earlier music, but we know how valuable this kind of authenticity can be from the work of groups like Les Siècles1 and it pays off here, too, albeit unobtrusively for most listeners.

If the Handel and the Parry setting of I was glad steal the show, among the more recent composers, it’s not just the ‘big’ names that shine. You may not even have heard of Sir Ernest Bullock, but the Gabrielis make his setting of the Veni creator spiritus (tr.19) sound like a minor masterpiece.

If you had any residual doubts, Walton’s Coronation Te Deum and Crown Imperial on the peri-penultimate and final tracks (45 and 47) should dispel them. The Te Deum is bold where appropriate, but not brash, and the quieter moments are also well conveyed. So, too, in Crown Imperial, there’s grandeur without brashness. As with the Handel, I found myself wishing for more – Walton’s Orb and Sceptre too.

To return to my one reservation compared with my colleagues, I’m not sure how many potential purchasers would want to listen to the whole ceremony more than once. Though some of it has been curtailed, there are still several acres of spoken text and even with Simon Russell Beale as a superb Archbishop of Canterbury you may wish to tune much or all of this out. Going for the download rather than the CDs will not only save monetarily, unless you go for 24-bit at roughly the same price as the CDs but in superior sound, it makes it possible to have the tracks on screen ready to be selected at will. You might even create two versions – with and without the spoken bits.

The recording is first-rate, especially as heard in 24-bit format. It conveys a grand sound yet with all the detail of the quieter moments. The spoken items are at a lower, more reverential volume than the music.

The notes in the booklet are very helpful. One complaint, however: though the dates of the writers of the texts are given, those of the composers are not. Someone at Hyperion has very helpfully added these on the web page – many thanks for that.

This equals or even excels the very fine earlier albums from McCreesh and the Gabrielis; in its own way, the new recording is as magnificent an achievement as the four coronations which it commemorates.

1 As witnessed by their recent recording of the first version of Mahler's Titan Symphony - review - review.

Brian Wilson

Previous reviews: John Quinn ~ Simon Thompson ~ Marc Rochester

Contents
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Coronation March, Op.65 [10:42]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
The King’s Herald [4:11]
Martin LUTHER (1483-1546) (harmonised JS BACH)
Rejoice Today with One Accord [2:00]
Charles WOOD (1866-1926)
O most merciful [1:46]
Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585)
Litany [9:02]
William CROFT (1678-1727)
O God, our Help in Ages past (St Anne) [3:50]
Sir Charles Hubert PARRY (1848-1918)
Choral Fantasia on O God, our Help in Ages past (St Anne) [5:01]
Sir Edward ELGAR
Pomp and Circumstance March No.1 in D, Op.39/1 [5:45]
Sir Ernest BULLOCK (1890-1979)
Entrance Fanfare [0:54]
Sir Charles Hubert PARRY
I was glad [6:57]
Sir Ernest BULLOCK
The Presentation, Fanfares and Acclamations [2:10]
The Administration and Signing of the Oath [1:31]
Sir Edward ELGAR
O hearken Thou, Op.64 [2:24]
The Collect [1:40]
Epistle: Peter 2:13-17 [1:00]
Henry PURCELL (1659-195)
Hear my prayer, O Lord, Z15 [2:26]
Gospel: Matthew 22:15 [1:48]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) (arr. Maurice JACOBSON)
Mass in G Minor: Creed [6:52]
Sir Ernest BULLOCK
Come, Holy Ghost [3:05]
The Prayer over the Ampulla [1:00]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Coronation Anthem No. 1, HWV258 ‘Zadok the Priest’ [5:13]
The Anointing and Blessing [1:48]
Sir Ernest BULLOCK
Prayers, Acclamations and Crowning Fanfare [1:48]
Sir Walter PARRATT (1841-1924)
Confortare (Be strong and play the man) [1:15]
The King Receives the Holy Bible [0:33]
The Blessing of the King and People [1:37]
The Exhortation [1:03]
Anon. (attrib. John REDFORD)
Rejoice in the Lord alway [2:43]
William BYRD (1539/40-1623)
I Will Not Leave You Comfortless [1:54]
Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625)
O clap your hands [4:37]
Samuel Sebastian WESLEY (1810-1876)
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace [3:20]
Ernest BULLOCK
Homage Fanfare and Acclamations [2:01]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS
All People That on Earth do Dwell (The Old Hundredth Psalm Tune) [5:15]
The Offertory Prayer and Prayer for the Church Militant [3:32]
The Exhortation, General Confession and Absolution [3:20]
The Preface [1:39]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS
Mass in g minor: Sanctus [2:45]
The Prayer of Humble Access and Prayer of Consecration [2:46]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS
O Taste and See [1:49]
John MERBECKE (c.1510-c.1585)
The Lord’s Prayer [1:29]
The Post-Communion Prayer [1:28]
Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)
‘Coronation’ Gloria in B flat [5:06]
The Blessing [1:03]
Orlando GIBBONS
Threefold Amen [1:04]
Sir William WALTON (1902-1983)
Coronation Te Deum [9:03]
David MATTHEWS (b.1943)
Recessional and National Anthem [10:11]
William WALTON
Crown Imperial [6:27]

 

 

 



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