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Alec Roth: A Time to Dance

Alec Roth: A Time to Dance

& other choral works

Roth, A:

A Time to Dance

Grace Davidson (soprano), Matthew Venner (countertenor), Samuel Boden (tenor), Greg Skidmore (bass)

Magnificat and Nunc dimittis 'Hatfield Service'

Tim Harper (organ)

Men and Angels

Alec Roth talks to Presto's David Smith about A Time to Dance here.

Alec Roth’s new oratorio is a celebration of times and seasons, and a joy to hear. Also included are new settings of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis and of John Donne’s Antiphon ‘Praised be the God of love’.

“A strong quartet of soloists move through the seasons…[and] all come together with the massed forces of Ex Cathedra (on typically fine form) for a stately Globe-style jig, bringing this immensely attractive cycle to its exuberant close” Gramophone Magazine, February 2016

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Christmas music from Trinity College Cambridge

Anderson, Leroy:

Sleigh Ride

arr. Robert Rice


The Virgin and the Child

arr. Gunnar Eriksson

Away in a Manger

arr. Reginald Jacques

How far is it to Bethlehem?

arr. Robert Rice

Bassi, J:

Quem pastores laudavere

Berlin, I:

White Christmas

arr. Jeremy Davies

Gruber, F:

Stille Nacht

arr. Jonathan Rathbone


In the Bleak Mid-winter (Cranham)

arr. Ola Gjeilo


E'en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come

Martin, Hugh:

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

arr. Owain Park


Peace, peace


Cradle Lullaby

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day


Jingle Bells

arr. Ben Parry

Praetorius, M:

Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen

arr. Erling Pedersen


The very best time of year

arr. Owain Park


The star - Shine forth, O star of Jacob

arr. Hans-Ola Ericsson


Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

arr. Peter Gritton

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

There are few choirs around today who can match the unbridled excellence of Trinity Cambridge. On this new album we find great carols both old and new. Add in some astonishing fresh arrangements and we have twenty-one tracks of pure festive indulgence—Yule love it!

“All the popular selections…sound notably relaxed and idiomatic, the choir's stylistic versatility confidently demonstrated.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2015 *****

“Highlights for me are two new works by the young Trinity alumnus Owain Park (b.1993): an easy-on-the-ear ‘Cradle Song’ which put me a little in mind of Bob Chilcott, and a dazzling setting of ‘Tomorrow shall be my dancing day’, full of fiendishly intricate part-writing which the fresh-voiced, well-schooled Trinity singers despatch with total aplomb.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 4th December 2015

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Clausen & Paulus: Calm on the listening ear of night

Clausen & Paulus: Calm on the listening ear of night

& other choral works

Clausen, R:

Calm on the listening ear of night

with Lucy Wakeford (harp), Rachel Gough (violin)

Pater noster

La lumière

A clear midnight

with Sanda Audere (soprano)

A jubilant song

with Sophie Edwards (soprano)

The last invocation

In Pace


The Road Home

with Leilani Barratt (alto)

A rich brocade



Arise, my love

Jesu carols

with Lucy Wakeford (harp), Sanda Audere (soprano)

Gabriel's message

Royal Holloway Choir, Rupert Gough

René Clausen and Stephen Paulus are two of the biggest names in American choral music of the last few decades. In the singers of Royal Holloway Choir they find worthy new champions.

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Mendelssohn, Grieg & Hough: Cello Sonatas

Mendelssohn, Grieg & Hough: Cello Sonatas


Cello Sonata in A minor, Op. 36


Sonata for cello and piano left hand 'Les adieux'


Cello Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 58

Steven Isserlis (cello) & Stephen Hough (piano)

Grieg’s sole Cello Sonata has long been a favourite of performers and audiences, if not of musical theorists, and here receives an impassioned vote of confidence from Steven Isserlis and Stephen Hough at the head of a programme which takes the listener forwards in time to Hough’s own Sonata for cello and piano left hand and back to Mendelssohn’s ever-popular Cello Sonata No 2. A spirit of passionate romanticism unifies the whole.

“everywhere their reading [of the Grieg] glints with conviction...Isserlis is matchless in the way he tugs at the simple melody to heart-rending effect...[The Hough is] unafraid to breathe an air of nostalgia...but the results are refreshingly personal...The performance couldn't be more persuasive and the two players are beautifully recorded.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2015

“If any reminder were needed that Steven Isserlis is at the top of his game, this is it...Their opening Allegro agitato is a thrilling tour de force, Isserlis sinewy and febrile, Hough's sound lucid and full-bodied with an ideal recorded balance.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2015 *****

“Isserlis supplies the rush of emotion to Stephen Hough’s accompaniment.” Financial Times, 17th July 2015

Presto Discs of 2015


GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2015

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Vaughan Williams: Dona nobis pacem & Hough: Missa Mirabilis

Vaughan Williams: Dona nobis pacem & Hough: Missa Mirabilis


Missa Mirabilis

first recording

Vaughan Williams:

Dona Nobis Pacem

Christopher Maltman (baritone), Sarah Fox (soprano)

Colorado Symphony Chorus & Colorado Symphony, Andrew Litton

Dona nobis pacem became a somewhat unexpected hit for Vaughan Williams. A fervently anti-war plea from the heart composed in 1936 as a pièce d’occasion for the Huddersfield Choral Society, it remains to this day one of the composer’s most widely performed works. Coupled with it here is the first recording of Stephen Hough’s Missa Mirabilis (the title derives from an unfortunate motorway incident), a work which shares with the Vaughan Williams an ability to seem very much greater than the sum of its parts. Andrew Litton directs the Colorado Symphony and all-star soloists Sarah Fox and Christopher Maltman.

“Vaughan Williams's Dona nobis pacem is a work that wastes no time cutting to the quick, and nor does this performance of it: in the opening Agnus Dei soprano Sarah Fox is immediately intense and focused, the Colorado Symphony coiled and ready to spring on the explosive tutti that rips forth from the softer textures” BBC Music Magazine, June 2015 ****

“Litton presides over another first-rate display.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2015

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Szymański & Mykietyn: Music for string quartet

Szymański & Mykietyn: Music for string quartet


String Quartet No. 2


Five pieces for string quartet

Four pieces for string quartet

Two pieces for string quartet

The official titles of the works performed here are not helpful: what they conceal are the most extraordinary soundworlds from two composers at the vanguard of the contemporary Polish music scene, and the magicians of the Royal String Quartet summon from their instruments sounds of collective and individual wonder.

This is music to grab the attention of its audience—whether willing or not—and it will leave listeners emphatically having chosen a side of the fence.

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Ēriks Ešenvalds: Northern Lights

Ēriks Ešenvalds: Northern Lights

& other choral works


O salutaris Hostia

with Rachel Ambrose Evans (soprano), Hannah Partridge (soprano)

The new moon

Psalm 67

with Michael Craddock (bass)

Trinity Te Deum

with Sally Pryce (harp)

Trinity Brass

Northern Lights

with Jamie Roberts (tenor)

The heavens' flock

The earthly rose

with Sally Pryce (harp)

Magnificat, Nunc dimittis (Merton College Service)

with Hannah King (soprano)

Rivers of light

with Hannah King (soprano), Jonathan Pacey (bass), Zane Šmite (jaw harp)

Ubi caritas

Amazing grace

with Anna Cavaliero (mezzo-soprano)

O Emmanuel

with Helen Charlston (mezzo-soprano)

Who can sail without the wind?

with Helen Charlston (mezzo-soprano), Hiroshi Amako (tenor), Sally Pryce (harp)


Only in sleep

with Rachel Ambrose Evans (soprano)

The intensely practical choral music of the young Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds is steadily gaining appreciation across the world. The works on this new album owe their genesis to commissions from the United States, England and northern Europe and encompass ethereal expressions of uniquely arctic phenomena (listen for wine glasses turned—and tuned—to wondrously simple but devastating effect within the choral texture), American ballads and several works in the ‘Anglican tradition’, the fruits of the composer’s recent residency at Trinity College Cambridge.

Trinity College Choir Cambridge here returns the compliment, as it were, with superlative performances of these varied and engaging works, all recorded under the watchful eye of the composer and conductor Stephen Layton.

“One of the chief pleasures of this CD is right at the beginning - the silvery duetting of Rachel Ambrose Evans and Hannah Partridge...Their fluid delivery of the little grace notes is delectable, and Stephen Layton secures a perfect balance with the choir in the background. Ešenvalds's music, is not quite easy listening, is certainly audience-friendly...what a force the Trinity choir has become.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2015 ****

“The disc is an excellent place to become familiar with Ešenvalds’s attractive output.” Choir & Organ *****

“Trinity College's choir sounds as though its members relish the experience of recording his music. The sonority is secure from top to bottom...I find Ešenvalds at his most convincing when dwelling on natural phenomena of his homeland...lovers of this corner of the choral repertoire will find here much to enjoy.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2015

“His rich, sonorous choral writing is in almost permanent ecstasy...that, when packed into one album of 16 varied items, is too ravishing to cope with. It’s all beautifully sung, but the sheer quantity of the material diminishes each work’s individual impact.” The Observer, 25th January 2015 ***

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Arvo Pärt: Choral Music

Arvo Pärt: Choral Music


Peace upon you

Morning Star

The Woman With The Alabaster Box

The Deer's Cry



Beter (2)

Rachel Ambrose Evans (soprano)

Tribute to Caesar

Richard Bannan (bass)



Alleluja Tropus for choir and string orchestra

Da pacem Domine

Stephen Layton and Polyphony have a long and fruitful relationship with the music of Arvo Pärt. Their recording of Triodion and other choral works (CDA67375) won a Gramophone Award and became a cult classic. The extraordinary purity of Polyphony’s singing is the perfect vehicle for music of such clean, elemental simplicity, such cathartic calm.

This third Pärt album from Stephen Layton and Polyphony reaches right back, intriguingly, to the composer’s youthful modernist phase and spans nearly five decades—from 1963 to 2012—in the process. As with the album Triodion, it reflects an increasingly broad spread of languages and sources in Pärt’s chosen texts. Latin, German and English are joined here by Church Slavonic and Spanish. A range of biblical texts are set alongside ancient prayers.

“this one is something special. In part this is because of the choice of repertoire, which mixes the familiar and the less-often heard, and includes two first recordings, and in part it is because of the exquisite sound produced by Polyphony...Highly recommended.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2014

“the choir fully conveys the extraordinary sense of atemporality that makes this piece so prescient of the later tintinnabuli style. The choir demonstrates crystal-clear articulation and remarkable dynamic control in Zwei Beter...while the slow-moving, syllabic declamation of Tribute to Caesar is movingly done.” International Record Review, December 2014

“Alleluia-Tropos (2008) originally included eight cellos (a favourite sonority for Pärt has always loved cello ensembles) but Polyphony's sound is, as always, so rich and beautiful that there is no sense of anything missing.” BBC Music Magazine, Janaury 2015 *****

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2014

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Hyperion - CDA68056


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Music for Remembrance

Music for Remembrance


Requiem, Op. 9

Roderick Williams (baritone), Christine Rice (mezzo-soprano)


Take him, earth, for cherishing

Moore, P:

Three Prayers of Dietrich Bonhoeffer


The peace that surpasseth understanding

Vaughan Williams:

Lord, Thou has been our refuge

This latest album from Westminster Abbey is a programme of memorial music composed in England and France in the shadow of two World Wars.

The main feature is Duruflé’s Requiem, one of the best-loved of all works of the twentieth century, and given an astoundingly beautiful performance here, enhanced by distinguished soloists Christine Rice and Roderick Williams.

The Requiem is many ways a paradoxical work, based on plainsong but with Durufle’s sensuous harmonies suffusing every note with feeling: ‘This Requiem is not an ethereal work which sings of detachment from human concerns’, he said. ‘It reflects, in the unchanging form of Christian prayer, the anguish of man faced with the mystery of his final end.’ It is a work of unimpeachable integrity, a miraculous synthesis of the old and the new.

Throughout the past century the Abbey has been a focus of national remembrance on Armistice Day, and ‘O God, our help in ages past’—the ‘great ceremonial hymn of the English nation’, quoted in Vaughan Williams’ Lord, thou has been our refuge—has been a constant and reassuring presence, from the Burial Service of the Unknown Warrior on 11 November 1920 to the Service commemorating the Passing of the World War One Generation on 11 November 2009. The anthem by John Tavener recorded here was composed for that service, and all the other English music has some special significance in this place: a statue of Dietrich Bonhoeffer stands above the west door of Westminster Abbey (one of the ten twentieth-century Christian martyrs installed in the niches there in 1998), while the ashes of Herbert Howells and Ralph Vaughan Williams are buried in the church where their music has contributed so much to daily services and great state occasions.

“This is an exquisite performance of the Durufle Requiem...The playing of the Britten Sinfonia is superb, Robert Quinney's fluid, immensely colourful organ-playing a joy to behold and Roderick Williams a supremely compelling baritone soloist...O'Donnell moulds and shapes every moment with infinite a beautiful listening experience it is in a class of its own.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2014

“The two soloists are excellent. Roderick Williams shows his usual sensitivity not just to the music but also to the text...The Westminster choir gives a fine account of the wonderful, eloquent Howells anthem... James O’Donnell’s excellent choir is on top form throughout this recital.” MusicWeb International, 7th November 2014

“Roderick Williams features widely in remembrance recordings this year...and here in Duruflé’s transcendent Requiem, his beautiful unforced baritone perfect for the mysterious Domine Jesu Christe, with the strings of the Britten Sinfonia adding an elegant sheen in the expansive acoustic of the abbey.” The Observer, 9th November 2014

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Canticles from St Paul's

Canticles from St Paul's

Archer, M:

Benedicite, omnia opera

Gray, Alan:

Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis in F minor

Roth, A:



Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis in B flat, Op. 10


Magnificat & Nunc dimittis (Collegium Sancti Johannis Cantabrigiense)


Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in D Minor


Coronation Te Deum

Wood, C:

Magnificat and Nunc dimittis (Collegium Regale)

The Canticles are the crowning glory of the Anglican liturgy and have afforded the greatest opportunity for musical development within the Anglican rite. Thousands of people daily hear the world-famous St Paul’s Cathedral Choir and organist Simon Johnson under their director of music Andrew Carwood singing these settings. Here these forces present a satisfying collection including nineteenth-century masterpieces by Stanford and Charles Wood, and from the twentieth century Walton’s Coronation Te Deum, written for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and Tippett’s monumental work for St John’s College Cambridge.

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - September 2014

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Hyperion - CDA68058


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