Westminster Cathedral Choir

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John Sheppard: Media vita

John Sheppard: Media vita

& other sacred music


Sheppard, J:

Cantate Mass

Gaude gaude gaude Maria

Media vita


Even by the standards of a time and place—Tudor England—in which masterpieces of choral polyphony appear to have been virtually an everyday occurrence, there is something uniquely and intensely compelling about the surviving works of John Sheppard. This is music designed to be sung by liturgical professionals, and none rise to its demands quite like Westminster Cathedral Choir.

“Westminster Cathedral Choir, under Martin Baker, invest this music, magnificently sung, with immense dignity as it slowly unfolds to reveal Sheppard’s unique sound world.” The Observer, 16th July 2017 ****

“Westminster match the monumentality of [Media vita’s] own structure in a spacious, architectural performance whose physical heft is balanced by a blend so smudgy-soft that the impression is of hundreds of voices all sharing in this musical prayer….It’s quite possible that 2017 marks Sheppard’s 500th anniversary year. It’s hard to think of a better birthday-present than this outstanding recording of three of his finest works.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2017

“Whichever option you choose, if you like Tudor music but have not yet become properly acquainted with that of John Sheppard, you really should do so. The new Hyperion is one of the best ways to begin that acquaintance – or to renew it.” MusicWeb International, August 2017

“The Westminster Choir under Martin Baker give their all in gracefully phrased, controlled performances.” Sunday Times, 3rd September 2017

Released or re-released in last 6 months

Hyperion - CDA68187

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Alonso Lobo: Lamentations

Alonso Lobo: Lamentations

& other sacred music


Guerrero, Francisco:

Maria Magdalena et altera Maria

Lobo, A:

Lamentations

Regina caeli, laetare

O quam suavis est, Domine

Missa Maria Magdalene


Alonso Lobo may be remembered principally for the great funerary motet Versa est in luctum, but his setting of the biblical Lamentations must also be counted among the masterpieces of Renaissance polyphony. No choir has a more distinguished tradition in such music than Westminster Cathedral Choir.

“rich and expressive accounts here by Westminster Cathedral Choir, with baritones and basses in particularly sonorous form.” The Observer, 5th June 2016 ****

“Westminster Cathedral Choir is at its best in the large-scale drama of the Credo of the Mass…though they discover a truly moving spaciousness in O quam suavis est…overall, a convincing introduction to a neglected composer” BBC Music Magazine, July 2016 ***

“Nothing will prepare listeners for the beauty of Lobo’s Lamentations…this, for me, is as good as it gets both in terms of performance and in terms of a school of polyphony beyond the works of Victoria” Gramophone Magazine, July 2016

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Byrd: The Three Masses

Byrd: The Three Masses


Byrd:

Mass for five voices

Mass for four voices

Mass for three voices

Ave verum Corpus


A new recording of the most perfect of Tudor masterpieces, Byrd’s three Mass-settings, from the cradle of their nineteenth-century rehabilitation. Westminster Cathedral Choir is enjoying a vintage period, and here we hear its trademark sound in all its glory: unfettered, natural singing from the trebles underpinned by warm yet clear tones from the gentlemen.

This recording celebrates Byrd’s Catholic Masses in two ways simultaneously. Most obviously, it addresses great and timeless works, which themselves address great and timeless liturgical texts. But at the same time it reminds us that the revival of Byrd’s Masses in the late nineteenth century was pioneered by Roman Catholic church choirs. This is a point worth pondering. Since the accession of Queen Elizabeth I in 1558, the choirs of England’s Protestant cathedrals and college chapels have had their own distinctive musical repertory, which has flourished and grown in unbroken tradition. The anthems and services of Thomas Tallis, for instance, have never fallen from cathedral use; they have been the epitome of Choral Evensong and Eucharist for more than four centuries. This Anglican repertory, however, is not what Roman Catholic worship requires. When major Catholic choral foundations were established in late Victorian and Edwardian England, at Downside Abbey, the Brompton Oratory, and above all at Westminster Cathedral, there was a quest for new and more relevant music; and it was at these places that William Byrd’s three Latin Masses were revived. Hence the pertinence of this recording; it celebrates that Catholic revival no less than it celebrates the works themselves.

“Westminster Cathedral Choir may sing them with more splendour and finesse than Byrd himself would have expected, yet the results are uplifting and moving. It's no slight to these musicians to say the disc is worth buying for the Byrd scholar John Milsom's incomparable notes: a masterly encapsulation of Tudor church music history in a few dense pages.” The Observer, 17th August 2014 *****

“unexaggerated performances, occasionally using solo voices for intimate effect.” Financial Times, 27th September 2014

“The Choir of Westminster Cathedral's approach is placid but not overly reverential: the longer-texted movements are formally clear and energetic where required...For the three-voice Mass the top voice is taken by a well-blended combination of boy altos and countertenors, making this the most distinctive interpretation of the three.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2014

“Baker here boldly claims Byrd's three Masses for the Westminster Cathedral Choir...Despite the choir's muscle and numbers this disc's mood is intimate...Some Byrd devotees may object to Baker's preference for slow tempos, and his use of rallentandos to close movements. But the power of this performance is undeniable.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2014 *****

“the main challenge for Christie and Les Arts Florissants in The Ways of Zion is to keep the interest and momentum alive...But Christie meets the challenge head on, creating crests of passion which stand proud of the sea of misery...The singers of Les Arts Florissants...are certainly sensitive to other forms of dignity and grandeur, especially in Caroline's funeral anthem.” International Record Review, December 2014

“Martin Baker and his multitudinous singers...bring Byrd’s freeform melodic lines deftly into relief within a lush polyphonic texture, with emotional immediacy and a refreshing lack of fussiness” Choir & Organ, May 2015 ****

BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song Choice - December 2014

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MacMillan: Tenebrae Responsories

MacMillan: Tenebrae Responsories

& other choral works


anon.:

Dignus est Agnus

MacMillan:

Tu es Petrus

Tenebrae Responsories

Alexander Hopkins (treble)

Summae Trinitati

Benedictus Deus

Ave maris stella

Tota pulchra es

After Virtue

Serenity

The Edinburgh Te Deum

Ecce sacerdos magnus

Processional on Tu es Petrus


Peter Stevens (organ)

Westminster Cathedral Choir & London Brass, Martin Baker

Westminster Cathedral Choir returns to acclaimed Scottish composer James MacMillan, whose powerful, passionate and luminous music has made him one of the best-loved choral composers of today.

Included on this recording is a dramatic setting of the Tenebrae Responsories, a spiritually engaging and emotionally involving work which relates back in its searing intensity and some of its choral effects to Seven Last Words from the Cross (1993) (recorded on Hyperion CDA67460), one of MacMillan’s seminal earlier works.

The choir is joined by London Brass for jubilant settings of Tu es Petrus, Summae Trinitati and Ecce sacerdos magnus.

“It's hard not to be impressed by the committed and well-disciplined singing of the Westminster Cathedral Choir, particularly its boys, who negotiate MacMillan's difficult melismatic writing and unintuitive harmonies with confidence...The London Brass players are no less enthusiastic, and yet refined.” International Record Review, July/August 2013

“MacMillan creates a magnificent effusion of sound, over which the trebles of the Westminster Cathedral Choir soar dramatically...[the Edinburgh Te Deum] is particularly valuable, further attesting to MacMillan's reputation as one of the finest living composers of ecclesiastical music. Martin Baker's direction is masterly.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2013 ****

“The combination of Westminster Cathedral Choir and MacMillan is irresistable. We are drawn immediately into their complicity by the jaw-dropping Tu es Petrus...inevitably the sound of the Westminster choristers adds something unique and the building's response buoys up MacMillan's arching lines” Gramophone Magazine, August 2013

“This is a splendid disc. The music... is compelling and full of interest. The performances by Martin Baker and his extremely fine choir strike me as well-nigh definitive...This is a disc that shows yet again that James MacMillan is one of the most articulate and compelling of contemporary composers.” MusicWeb International, 11th September 2013

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - August 2013

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Miserere

Miserere

A sequence of music for Lent, St Joseph, and the Annunciation


anon.:

Attende, Domine

Peter Stevens (organ)

Audi, benigne conditor

Peter Stevens (organ)

Evigila super nos

Evigila super nos

Mass IX 'Cum iubilo'

Credo IV

Peter Stevens (organ)

Salva nos, Domine

Salva nos, Domine

Salva nos, Domine

Antiphon Repeat

Bevan, D:

Magnificat

Byrd:

Emendemus in melius

Croce, G:

In spiritu humilitatis

Guerrero, Francisco:

Ave Virgo sanctissima

Malcolm:

Miserere mei, Deus

Scapulis suis

Veritas mea

Nunc dimittis tertii toni

Mawby:

Iustus ut palma

William Gaunt (bass) & Peter Stevens (organ)

Palestrina:

Missa Emendemus in melius

Parsons, R:

Ave Maria

Tallis:

Te lucis ante terminum


This release from the admired Westminster Cathedral Choir demonstrates the splendours of the liturgy in the at-once solemn and joyful period of Lent. Masterworks from the Renaissance—familiar from Westminster Cathedral Choir’s previous award-winning recordings—alternate with works by former organists of the Cathedral (all themselves masters of liturgical composition) and are linked by the plainchant which is at the spiritual heart of the music. Hearing the music like this in context—and recorded in the unique acoustic of the Cathedral—perfectly replicates the live experience for the listener.

“This is beautifully devised programme, sung with ineffable perceptiveness by the Westminster choristers and recorded with utterly natural atmosphere by the Hyperion team: 79 minutes' worth of timeless reflection, which, far from giving up, anyone should possibly crave for Lent.” International Record Review, February 2013

“In purist terms accompanied by organ harmonisation is an anachronism...Does it work? Well, yes, because the choir is on excellent form and the recorded sound seems perfectly to capture a sense of place, of atmosphere. That's indefinable and therefore worth hearing. Furthermore, everything is of a piece: the performance of Renaissance piece might almost be described as lush...And yet the recital's unity of purpose is most convincing, even impressive” Gramophone Magazine, March 2013

“This is a disc for those who love the acoustic, the atmosphere and the musical traditions of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in London...This is a large choir, very good at big effects. The pacing and cohesion in the Agnus Dei of Palestrina's Missa Emendemus in Melius is accomplished and moving” BBC Music Magazine, April 2013 ***

“The singing is enchanting” MusicWeb International, 20th June 2013

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Britten: Choral Works

Britten: Choral Works


Britten:

Five Flower Songs, Op. 47

First release on CD

Wilfrid Parry (piano)

Elizabethan Singers, Louis Halsey

Two Two-Partsongs

First release on CD

Wilfrid Parry (piano)

Elizabethan Singers, Louis Halsey

Chorale after an Old French Carol

First release on CD

Wilfrid Parry (piano)

Elizabethan Singers, Louis Halsey

A Shepherd's Carol

First release on CD

Wilfrid Parry (piano)

Elizabethan Singers, Louis Halsey

The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard (Text: The Oxford Book of Ballads)

First release on CD

Wilfrid Parry (piano)

Elizabethan Singers, Louis Halsey

Choral Dances from Gloriana, Op. 53

First release on CD

Wilfrid Parry (piano)

Elizabethan Singers, Louis Halsey

Old Abram Brown

First release on CD

Wilfrid Parry (piano)

Elizabethan Singers, Louis Halsey

Oliver Cromwell

First release on CD

Wilfrid Parry (piano)

Elizabethan Singers, Louis Halsey

O can ye sew cushions?

First release on CD

Wilfrid Parry (piano)

Elizabethan Singers, Louis Halsey

Down by the Salley Gardens

First release on CD

Wilfrid Parry (piano)

Elizabethan Singers, Louis Halsey

A Hymn to the Virgin

London Symphony Chorus, George Malcolm

Missa Brevis in D major, Op. 63

First release on CD

Westminster Cathedral Choir, George Malcolm


Throughout Britten’s public career as the leading opera and song composer of his age there have appeared, from time to time, small-scale works composed for more intimate occasions – the wedding anniversary of friends, for instance, a BBC feature program, songs for children, a chorus for a prisoner-of-war choir and – for his own use – individual folk song arrangements as modest encores to a song recital. The specific occasions for which these pieces were written are of no more than documentary interest; their musical value, however, claims the attention of every admirer of Britten’s art, for the composer has always lavished his full powers on the smallest undertaking and brought distinction to the homeliest genre. Louis Halsey and the Elizabeth Singers recorded a number of these smaller-scale pieces in 1964. Two folk song settings O can ye sew cushions and The Salley Gardens were not included on the Argo LP, instead issued separately, the next year, on an EP, together with Old Abram Brown and Oliver Cromwell. All four settings are included on this disc. Completing this collection are the Hymn to the Virgin (an early work, composed in 1930 and revised four years later) and the Missa Brevis, written to mark the retirement of George Malcolm as organist and choirmaster of Westminster Cathedral. Although Britten himself recorded the work for Decca, this is a rare and much sought-after ‘live’ recording made during Mass at Westminster Cathedral in January 1960. It was issued on a 45rpm EP record.

“First CD releases of classic accounts of Britten part songs from Louis Halsey's Elizabethan Singers, plus a searing live recording of the Missa Brevis from 1960” BBC Music Magazine, October 2012 ****

“The pieces on this extremely enjoyable record roughly cover the first 20 years of Britten's maturity […]The Elizabethan Singers sing with lovely tone, splendid precision and unfailing comprehension. These are superb performances. Some of the quiet homophonic songs are splendidly done, for instance the haunting "Concord" in the Gloriana pieces, but the group is equally successful at conveying stress and excitement. The recording quality is outstandingly good. I do urge you to give this lovely record a trial.” Gramophone Magazine (Halsey)

“The little work is full of Britten's brilliant technical invention and imaginative insight both in the vocal and the organ parts, and is a most valuable addition to the small repertoire of really worth-while contemporary liturgical settings of the Ordinary of the Mass. […]Performance and recording are very good” Gramophone Magazine (Missa Brevis)

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Fauré: Requiem

Fauré: Requiem


Fauré:

Requiem, Op. 48

Cantique de Jean Racine, Op. 11

Christopher Robinson (organ)

with St John's College Choir, Cambridge

Tantum ergo, Op. 65 No. 2

Messe basse

Maria Mater gratiae Op. 47 No. 2


“a charming freshness, and many unmistakeably Faurean touches” Gramophone Magazine

“its special quality is it uses boy trebles and male altos...most winning” Penguin Guide

Alto - ALC1078

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Victoria: Requiem

Victoria: Requiem


Gregorian Chant:

Credo quod Redemptor meus

Ego sum resurrectio - Benedictus Dominus, Deus Israel

Victoria:

Requiem 1605 'Officium defunctorum'

Taedet animam meam

Versa est in luctum

Libera me Domine


“This goes to the head of the list of some fine versions of this Requiem” Fanfare

“Glorious. A rich, luminous acoustic halo seems to surround the music as it soars ever upward. Under David Hill’s expert direction this choir has achieved a depth and body of tone totally appropriate to this fullblooded Iberian music” Good CD Guide

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From the vaults of Westminster Cathedral

From the vaults of Westminster Cathedral

A procession of chant & polyphony from Advent to Christmas & the Epiphany and Presentation of our Lord


Baker, M:

Improvisation 'Marche des Rois mages'

Bevan, D:

Magnificat

Byrd:

Rorate caeli

Ecce virgo concipiet

Gregorian Chant:

Rorate caeli

Mass X 'Alme Pater'

Psalm 2

Alleluia. Dominus dixit

Sanctus & Benedictus from Mass IX ‘Cum iubilo’

Ecce advenit

Alleluia. Vidimus stellam

Lasso:

Omnes de Saba

Malcolm:

Missa ad praesepe

with improvised organ strepitus

Martin, M:

Adam lay ybounden

Monteverdi:

Messa a 4 voci da Cappella (1650)

Victoria:

Descendit angelus Domini

Wood, C:

Nunc Dimittis in B flat


Matthew Martin (organ accompaniment), & Martin Baker (organ improvisations)

The Choir of Westminster Cathedral, Martin Baker

A century ago, Richard Runciman Terry re-introduced the wonders of the Renaissance into liturgical polyphony and placed Westminster Cathedral Choir at the pinnacle of the art. Terry was a musical pioneer whose work as Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral between 1902 and 1924 is legendary. The musical roadmap that Richard Terry charted for London’s new Roman Catholic cathedral remains largely unrevised today. Plainchant and Renaissance polyphony are the bedrock of Westminster Cathedral’s sung liturgy—early music is the root from which the cathedral’s musical endeavours have branched for over a century. Also, from Westminster Cathedral’s earliest years, alongside the fascination with early vocal repertory, composers have been commissioned to contribute to the canon; when they have done so the choir’s antique musical diet has frequently been at the forefront of those composers’ imagination.

This disc is a homage to Terry’s work: a procession through a particularly rich section of the church’s year which perfectly illustrates the changing glories of the liturgy.

“Epiphany brings Monteverdi's Messa a 4 da cappella, whose polyphonic complexities elicit a confidently assertive response from the choir, with fine internal balances between the voice sections.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2009 ****

“Throughout, the choral singing under Martin Baker's direction glows resplendently, while still retaining its celebrated "continental" edge. Another tremendous plus is the exhilarating, splashy, dynamic and fiery improvisations dished up by Matthew Martin on the Grand Organ. Who could fail to be moved by the image of lolloping camels in his cinematic concluding Marche des Rois mages?” Gramophone Magazine, November 2009

Presto Disc of the Week

30th November 2009

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Dreamland

Dreamland

Contemporary choral riches from the Hyperion catalogue


Burgon:

The Corpus Christi Carol

Wells Cathedral Choir, Matthew Owens

Byrchmore:

Song

Schola Cantorum of Oxford, Jeremy Summerly

Chilcott:

Shepherd's Carol

The Choir of Westminster Abbey, James O’Donnell

Dubra:

Stetit Angelus

The Choir of Royal Holloway, Rupert Gough

Jackson, Gabriel:

To Morning 'O holy virgin! clad in purest white'

Polyphony, Stephen Layton

Lauridsen:

Ave, dulcissima Maria

Polyphony, Stephen Layton

Lukaszewski:

Nunc dimittis

The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, Stephen Layton

MacMillan:

A Child's Prayer

The Choir of Westminster Cathedral, Martin Baker

Maw, N:

Balulalow

Schola Cantorum of Oxford, Mark Shepherd

Pärt:

Magnificat

Polyphony, Stephen Layton

Pitts, A:

Adoro te

Tonus Peregrinus, Antony Pitts

Tavener:

As one who has slept

Polyphony, Stephen Layton

Thompson, R:

Alleluia

Schola Cantorum of Oxford, James Burton

Tormis:

Äiutus (Lulling)

Holst Singers, Stephen Layton

Villette:

O sacrum convivium Op. 27

Holst Singers, Stephen Layton

Whitacre:

Sleep

Polyphony, Stephen Layton


A new and intriguing sampler features a selection of pieces from Hyperion’s extensive and varied choral collection. This disc seeks to give a flavour of the contemporary choral music recorded by Hyperion over the last decade. Whilst on one level it can stand alone as a tribute to the beauty of its composers’ writing and choirs’ singing, it also lifts the lid on the albums from which the tracks are drawn. A perfect introduction to the magic new worlds of sound that await the listener.

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