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Howells: Hymnus Paradisi

Howells: Hymnus Paradisi


Hymnus Paradisi

Joan Rodgers (soprano) & Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor)

A Kent Yeoman's Wooing Song

Joan Rodgers (soprano) & Alan Opie (baritone)

This re-release of Herbert Howells’s Hymnus Paradisi and A Kent Yeoman’s Wooing Song forms part of the new commemorative Hickox Legacy series on Chandos Records, leading up to (and continuing beyond) the fifth anniversary, in Nov 2013, of the conductor's untimely death. The recording is released on the Classic Chandos label at Mid Price.

The reputation of Herbert Howells has reached new heights in recent years, no doubt helped by recordings such as this one of Hymnus Paradisi. Howells wrote the work in memory of his young son Michael who had died of polio at the age of nine. It is not a conventional requiem, in that it does not contain the whole text of the Requiem Mass. Instead it sets Psalms 23 and 121 with ‘I heard a voice from heaven’ and words from the Salisbury Diurnal, ‘Holy is the True Light’. It is an intense and powerfully emotional work – the composer’s attempt to come to terms with personal tragedy.

BBC Music Magazine wrote of Hickox’s performance of Hymnus Paradisi: ‘[He] brings passionate commitment to his performance and shapes Howells’s long lines lovingly. He is aided by the fine playing of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and sensitive choral singing.’

The secular cantata A Kent Yeoman’s Wooing Song was intended as a wedding present for the baritone Keith Falkner and his bride, Christabel – although they had to wait two decades for the work to be presented to them. ‘No two people ever received a more delayed wedding present’, Howells wrote to them, adding that it came ‘with apologies and affection’.

The Wooing Song features Howells in an unusually extrovert mood, in music set to texts dating from the 1600s. Words from Thomas Vautor’s sprightly madrigal Mother, I will have a husband (sung here by Joan Rodgers) provides the girl’s side of the story, while ‘I have House and Land in Kent’ (sung by Alan Opie), a text adapted from the composer Thomas Ravenscroft’s Melismata, gives the suitor’s perspective on courting.

“The performance is extremely successful, conveying the dynamism and energy very well...There have been a number of highly recommendable recordings of Hymnus Paradisi and there’s no doubt that this one is prominent among them. Hickox’s years as a choral trainer held him in fine stead for those many undertakings on disc and with him he has a responsive BBC Symphony and Chorus to work with.” MusicWeb International, January 2013

“Joan Rodgers and Anthony Rolfe Johnson take the lead, and Richard Hickox steers the BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra through the work's emotional landscape.” Presto Classical, October 2014

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Chandos Classics - The Hickox Legacy - CHAN10727X


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Handel: Messiah

Handel: Messiah

Joan Rodgers (soprano), Della Jones (mezzo soprano), Christopher Robson (counter-tenor), Philip Langridge (tenor), Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone)

Collegium Musicum 90, Richard Hickox

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Chandos Chaconne - CHAN0522

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Rachmaninov: Songs, Vol. 1

Rachmaninov: Songs, Vol. 1


At the gates of the holy cloister

Nothing shall I say to you

Again you are bestirred, my heart.

April! A festive day in the spring.

Dusk was falling.

Song of the disenchanted

The flower died

Do you remember the evening?

O, no, I beg you, do not leave, Op. 4 No. 1

Morning, Op. 4 No. 2

In the silence of the secret night, Op. 4 No. 3

Sing not, O lovely one (Ne poi, krasavitsa, pri mne), Op. 4 No. 4

Oh, my field, Op. 4 No. 5

It wasn't long ago, my friend, Op. 4 No. 6

Water lily, Op. 8 No. 1

My child, your beauty is that of a flower, Op. 8 No. 2

Thoughts, reflections, Op. 8 No. 3

I fell in love, to my sorrow, Op. 8 No. 4

A dream, Op. 8 No. 5

Prayer, Op. 8 No. 6

I await you, Op.14 No. 1

Small island, Op. 14 No. 2

How fleeting is delight in love, Op.14 No. 3

I was with her, Op. 14 No. 4

Summer nights Op.14 No. 5

You are so loved by all, Op.14 No. 6

Do not believe me, friend, Op. 14 No. 7

Oh, do not grieve, Op.14 No. 8

She is as beautiful as midday, Op.14 No. 9

In my soul, Op.14 No.10

Spring torrents, Op. 14 No.11

It is time, Op. 14 No. 12

Joan Rodgers (soprano), Maria Popescu (contralto), Alexandre Naoumenko (tenor), Sergei Leiferkus (baritone), Howard Shelley (piano)

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Chandos - CHAN9405


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Rachmaninov: Songs, Vol. 2

Rachmaninov: Songs, Vol. 2


Were you hiccoughing, Natasha?


Fate, Op. 21 No. 1

By a fresh grave, Op. 21 No. 2

Twilight, Op.21 No. 3

They replied, Op. 21 No. 4

Lilacs, Op. 21 No. 5

Fragment from A. Musset, Op. 21 No. 6

How fair this spot, Op. 21 No. 7

On the death of a siskin, Op.21, No. 8

Melody, Op. 21 No. 9

Before the icon, Op. 21 No. 10

I am not a prophet, Op. 21 No.11

How pained I am, Op. 21 No.12

There are many sounds, Op.26, No. 1

All was taken from me, Op. 26 No. 2

We shall rest, Op.26, No. 3

Two farewells, Op.26 No. 4

Let us leave, my sweet, Op. 26 No. 5

Christ is risen, Op.26 No. 6

To my children, Op.26, No. 7

I beg for mercy, Op.26, No. 8

I am again alone, Op.26 No. 9

At my window, Op. 26 No.10

The fountain, Op.26, No.11

Night is sorrowful, Op. 26 No.12

Yesterday we met, Op. 26 No.13

The ring, Op.26, No.14

All passes, Op. 26 No. 15

Joan Rodgers (soprano), Maria Popescu (contralto), Alexandre Naoumenko (tenor), Sergei Leiferkus (baritone), Howard Shelley (piano)

“Two figures in particular haunt this second volume of Chandos's survey of Rachmaninov's songs – Feodor Chaliapin and Rachmaninov himself. They had become friends in the years when they worked together in an opera company and when Rachmaninov was concentrating on developing his piano virtuosity. As a result the Op 21 songs are dominated by an almost operatic declamatory manner coupled with formidably difficult accompaniments. Leiferkus rises splendidly to the occasion, above all in 'Fate' (Op 21 No 1), and so throughout the songs does Howard Shelley. He's unbowed by the technical problems and he understands the novel proportions of songs in which the piano's participation has an unprecedented role. He also enjoys himself in the roisterous exchanges with Leiferkus in what's really Rachmaninov's only lighthearted song, Were you hiccoughing? The songs for the other voices are less powerful, in general more lyrical and intimate.
Alexandre Naoumenko only has five songs, and they aren't, on the whole, among the more striking examples, but he responds elegantly to 'The fountain' (Op 26 No 11). Maria Popescu gives a beautiful account of one of the most deservedly popular of them all, 'To the children' (Op 26 No 7), and of the remarkable Merezhkovsky setting, 'Christ is risen' (Op 26 No 6). Joan Rodgers is enchanting in 'The Lilacs' (Op 21 No 5) and moving in the song acknowledging that love is slipping away, 'Again I am alone' (Op 26 No 9). She has complete mastery of the style, and nothing here is finer than her arching phrase ending 'How peaceful' (Op 21 No 7) – 'da ty, mechta moya' (and you, my dream) – with Shelley gently articulating Rachmaninov's reflective piano postlude from the world of Schumann.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Chandos - CHAN9451


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Rachmaninov: Songs, Vol. 3

Rachmaninov: Songs, Vol. 3


Letter to K.S. Stanislavsky

The Muse, Op. 34 No. 1

In the soul of each of us, Op. 34 No. 2

The storm. Op.34, No. 3

A passing breeze, Op.34, No. 4

Arion, Op. 34 No. 5

The raising of Lazarus, Op. 34 No. 6

It cannot be! Op. 34 No. 7

Music, Op.34, No. 8

You knew him, Op. 34 No. 9

I remember this day, Op.34, No.10

The herald, Op.34 No.11

What happiness, Op. 34 No.12

Dissonance, Op.34, No.13

Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14

From the gospel of St. John.

At night in my garden, Op. 38 No. 1

To her, Op.38, No. 2

Daisies, Op. 38 No. 3

The pied piper, Op.38, No. 3

Sleep, Op.38, No. 5

'A-oo', Op.38, No. 6

A prayer

All glory to God

Joan Rodgers (soprano), Maria Popescu (contralto), Alexandre Naoumenko (tenor), Sergei Leiferkus (baritone), Howard Shelley (piano)

“This set opens with a powerful dramatic outpouring, Letter to KS Stanislavsky. In fact it's a formal letter of apology, for unavoidable absence from a gathering, which Rachmaninov sent for Chaliapin to sing to Stanislavsky; and one of the most touchingly elegant phrases is simply the date on the letter, October 14, 1908.
Perhaps he was showing a rare touch of irony in using his full lyrical powers in such a context; but at any rate, the piece nicely prefaces the two collections of his last phase of song-writing, before he left Russia for exile.
Some of his greatest songs are here, coloured in their invention by the four great singers whose hovering presence makes the disposition of this recital between four similar voices a highly successful idea. The Chaliapin songs go to Sergei Leiferkus, occasionally a little overshadowed by this mighty example (as in 'The raising of Lazarus', Op 34 No 6) but more often his own man, responding to the subtly dramatic, sometimes even laconic melodic lines with great sympathy for how they interact with the words, as with the Afanasy Fet poem 'The peasant' (Op 34 No 11). Alexandre Naoumenko inherits the mantle of Leonid Sobinov, and though he sometimes resorts to a near-falsetto for soft high notes, he appears to have listened to that fine tenor's elegance of line and no less subtle feeling for poetry. Pushkin's 'The muse' (Op 34 No 1) is most tenderly sung, and there's a sensitive response to line with 'I remember this day'.
Maria Popescu has only two songs, 'It cannot be' and 'Music' (Op 34 Nos 7 and 8), but she has a light tone and bright manner. Joan Rodgers is exquisite in the most rapturous and inward of the songs (the great Felia Litvinne was the original here). Of the Op 38 set, Rachmaninov was particularly fond of 'The rat-catcher' (No 4), and especially of 'Daisies' (No 3), which she sings charmingly, but it's hard to understand why he did not add 'Sleep'. He might have done had he heard Rodgers's rapt performance with Howard Shelley, the music delicately balanced in the exact way he must have intended between voice and piano as if between sleep and waking.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Chandos - CHAN9477


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Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov (highlights)

Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov (highlights)

Sung in English (translation by David Lloyd-Jones)

John Tomlinson (Boris), Stuart Kale (Prince Shuisky), Clive Bayley (Varlaam), Joan Rodgers (Xenia), Susan Parry (Feodor), Yvonne Howard (Old Nurse), Matthew Best (Pimen)

Opera North Chorus, English Northern Philharmonia, Paul Daniel

“John Tomlinson has made the part of Boris his own, and this generous, 75-minute selection of excerpts from Boris Godunov is highly recommendable, even when compared with current Russian versions of Mussorgsky's masterpiece.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

Penguin Guide

Rosette Winner

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Chandos Opera in English - CHAN3007


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Delius: A Mass of Life, etc.


A Mass of Life


“This is only the third commercial recording of AMass of Life. The previous two recordings were the 1952 Beecham (no longer available) and the 1971 Groves on EMI. You might imagine modern recording would best place this vast canvas between your loudspeakers. And yes, Hickox's dynamic peaks are marginally higher, his perspectives marginally wider and deeper. Actually, some of this has as much to do with Hickox's own pacing and shading as the engineering. In general, this 'idealised' light- and air-filled sound brings a sharper, bright presence for the chorus, and such things as the piccolo trilling atop the final 'Hymn to Joy'. What it doesn't bring is the sense of performers in a specific acoustic space. But the chorus shines in the prominent role which the Chandos balance gives them, with ringing attack for all entries where it's needed, and singing as confident as it's sensitive, even if one has to make the odd allowance for not quite perfect pitching on high (Delius's demands are extreme) and moments where they're too loud. The soloists are fine; Hickox's baritone has a good line in stirring, virile address, though little of Benjamin Luxon's nobility, inwardness and true legato. What makes the Hickox Mass preferable to the Groves (but only just) is the conductor's inspired handling of each part's central dance panels. Hickox makes you believe in them, with a judicious drive, lift to the rhythms, and really incisive, eager singing and playing. As a coupling, Hickox has only the second-ever commercial recording of the Requiem: more Nietzsche, but this time dogma not poetry, all the more unpalatable/ embarrassing (regardless of your faith) for being in English, but containing much unique Delius.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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