Review By David A. McConnell ,MusicWeb International,September 2012
This is absolutely one of my discs of the year. In a particularly well organized and executed program, the recording begins with tenor Oliver Brewer proclaiming “The glory of the Lord has risen upon us”, set with several melismatic flourishes, dispatched with admirable ease. The choir answers breathlessly, repeating the word “Rejoice” over and over with ever-increasing enthusiasm. The intensity of the choral writing seems to peter out, only to become renewed and even more dynamic as the choir sings “Alleluia”, finally ending with a joyful shout. Having heard several recordings and performances of Jackson’s music, I feel confident in saying that The Christ Child is one of Gabriel Jackson’s most touching creations, a G. K.
The following two anthems require great virtuosity and a mastery of more complex compositional structures…Hymn to St. Margaret of Scotland opens with seven petitions, five of which begin with “Salve” (Hail). The choral writing includes vocal effects, such as slides, rhythmically speaking the text, and ornamental melodic writing that calls to mind traditional Scottish folksong. Jackson’s musical ideas flow into one another with an organic logic that never allows the music to seem sectional or repetitious. Nothing seems wasted, every note has a purpose. Treble Antonia Smart’s solo is wonderful, done with excellent intonation and diction, while the choir sings as if possessed, having fully mastered the many difficult and complex technical aspects of this score. The same is true of Jesu, Rex admirabilis, the choir’s excellence fully matched by organist Nicolas Wearne’s superb handling of a particularly demanding organ accompaniment.
Ah, Mine Heart brings a welcome change of mood, with slow-moving, mostly homophonic writing that requires and receives excellent intonation to realize fully the close-knit triadic harmonies with added fourths and sixths. The music and its performance, perfectly evoke the forlorn atmosphere of the text.
This is liturgical material that is first and foremost intended to expand on the mood and meaning of the text, as perfect a definition as any I have heard for good church music.
The recording is first rate in every way, capturing the densest textures with pinpoint clarity, while bringing out the warm halo of sound that the room adds to the voices. Balance between voices…
Gabriel Jackson surely has no finer advocates than this choir and their director, Duncan Ferguson. The notes, by Andrew Stewart, are a model of their kind, and full texts, translations and biographies are included. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review