with Delphian Records
GUSTAV HOLST: The Cloud Messenger (Chamber Version)
In 1910, after seven years of work, Gustav Holst completed his choral-orchestral masterpiece, The Cloud Messenger. But following a disappointing premiere in1913 the piece fell into obscurity, and has received only a handful of performances.
This crowning glory from the composer’s Sanskrit period deserves to be much better known. Telling the powerful fifth-century story of an exiled yaksha who spies a passing cloud and sends upon it a message of love to his distant wife in the Himalayas, it is rich in its harmonic language and ingenious in its motivic construction, and points the way to Holst’s next major work, The Planets.
This colourful chamber version by conductor Joseph Fort lends the more tender passages a new intimacy and clarity, while retaining much of the force of the original and laying the ground for a new life in performance.A set of five part songs, completed the year The Cloud Messenger was begun, shows the newly married Holst similarly absorbed by love’s trials and rewards.
Brahms: An English Requiem
Since its London premiere in 1871, Brahms’s German Requiem has enjoyed immense popularity in the UK, in both its orchestral and chamber versions. But the setting we know today is not the one that nineteenth-century British audiences knew and loved. The work was rarely performed here in German; rather, it was almost always sung in an English translation, and was even known by some as An English Requiem.
In its sixth Delphian recording, The Choir of King’s College London revives the nineteenth-century English setting in which Brahms’s masterpiece established itself as a favourite among its earliest British audiences. Under its new director Joseph Fort, the choir is joined by pianists James Baillieu and Richard Uttley, and soloists Mary Bevan and Marcus Farnsworth.
Leighton & Martin:
Masses for Double Choir
In the 1920s Frank Martin, a Swiss Calvinist by upbringing, created a radiant Latin setting of the Mass for double choir, only to return it to the bottom drawer, considering it to be ‘a matter between God and myself’.
It was finally released for performance forty years later, around the same time that the Edinburgh- based composer Kenneth Leighton made his own double-choir setting – a work with moments of striking stillness, delightful to choral singers and yet rarely recorded.
Contrasts and comparisons abound at every point in this fascinating pairing of Masses from the supposedly godless twentieth century, and are brought out to the full by The Choir of King’s College London’s impassioned performances. A short organ postlude by the teenage Jehan Alain, written on retreat in a monastery in 1930, follows like a voluntary concluding the liturgy.
from King's College London
Every December, over a thousand people attend the Advent carol service in the Chapel of King’s College London, which is repeated over three nights to meet demand.
This album offers a snapshot of one such service, with its characteristic mix of plainchant, seasonal hymns and polyphony old and new. The Great O Antiphons (sung according to medieval Sarum practice) provide the backbone, pointing inexorably towards the Christmas birth.
A brace of premiere recordings centres on composers with personal connections to King’s College, and is complemented by current Professor of Composition George Benjamin’s rarely heard setting of a prophetic text after Isaiah. It intensifies the mood of heightened expectation proper to this very special season, and reminds us that something truly extraordinary is about to happen.