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GUSTAV HOLST: The Cloud Messenger (Chamber Version)

Nesbit: 

Sacred Choral Music

As a young composer, Edward Nesbit was drawn to the rich complexities of contemporary instrumental music; little more than a decade later, he has found himself returning to the inheritance of his early youth as a chorister: the texts of mass, psalms and canticles, and the long centuries of the Anglican choral tradition. Not that there is anything traditional about Nesbit’s music, which synthesises these two heritages into a soundworld that is accessible, full of references yet always recognisably its own voice.

Joseph Fort – his colleague at King’s College London – and organist Joshua Simões and the King’s choir rise to the challenges expertly, while multi-award-winning soprano Ruby Hughes gives the lead in the clarion textures of Nesbit’s Mass.

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.

Paterson: 

Say It to the Still World

Multi-award-winning Sean Shibe, widely recognised as the leading guitarist of his generation, joins Delphian regulars The Choir of King’s College London in these beguilingly conceived works by Shibe’s friend and compatriot Lliam Paterson, for the rare combination of choir with electric guitar.

Say it to the still world casts Shibe as Orpheus with his lyre, in a work which draws fragments of text from poetry by Rilke to meditate on language, loss and the transcendent power of song. Elegy for Esmeralda is a rawer, angrier response to grief, while poppies spread – composed especially, like the other two works, for the performers who bring it to life here – is a further testament to art’s ability to reflect and transform the outer world.

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.

Holst: 

The Cloud Messenger

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.

Advent Carols 

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.