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Jonathan Dove (b.1959)

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Dove: Flight

Dove: Flight

An Opera in Three Acts


Christopher Robson, Claron McFadden, Richard Coxen, Mary Plazas, Nuala Willis, Ann Taylor, Garry Magee, Steven Page, Anne Mason, Richard Van Allen

London Philharmonic Orchestra, David Parry

“Anyone who cares about opera as a living art form will rejoice in Chandos’s decision to issue the recording of Flight from Glyndebourne with the original cast” BBC Music Magazine

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Chandos - CHAN10197

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Dove: For An Unknown Soldier

Dove: For An Unknown Soldier

An Airmail Letter from Mozart


Dove:

For An Unknown Soldier

An Airmail Letter from Mozart


Nicky Spence (tenor), Melvyn Tan (piano)

Oxford Bach Choir, Portsmouth Grammar School Chamber Choir, Children’s Choir: The Minster Junior School Monks Orchard Primary School, Ecclesbourne Primary School, London Mozart Players, Nicholas Cleobury

'For An Unknown Soldier' is a cantata of remembrance to mark the centenary of the First World War. Commissioned by the London Mozart Players and Portsmouth Grammar School, Jonathan Dove’s poignant work combines the words of war poets such as Wilfred Owen, William Noel Hodgson & Isaac Rosenberg. It lay at the centre of a multi-faceted project that encompassed primary and secondary schools, nursing homes and the local communities of Portsmouth and Croydon. The world premiere of the work took place in November 2014 and there are plans to tour the project in 2018.

It is paired with the ensemble’s performance of Dove’s 'An Airmail Letter from Mozart', for 2 horns, string quartet and piano, directed by Melvyn Tan. Dove uses the 'Theme and Variations', and one or two other ideas, from Mozart’s Divertimento K287 to write an imaginary letter to his wife Constanze.

“Dove has a profound feel for literature as well as a protean compositional talent...And Dove’s matchless experience of writing community operas is evident in the way that choirs of young children, older children (Portsmouth Grammar School) and adults (Oxford Bach Choir) are each given a distinct strand of the narrative … Nicky Spence is wonderfully tender in the tenor solos … it’s a marvellously atmospheric work and should be heard.” The Times, 11th November 2016

“As always with Dove, the vocal writing is finely gauged. Children’s choirs merge seamlessly into and out of the Oxford Bach Choir, with Nicky Spence a highly eloquent focal-point and Nicholas Cleobury securing an animated response from the London Mozart Players. Anyone coming to these poems for the first time will be left in little doubt as to their emotional acuity…this disc [is] more than just a memento of a major occasion” Gramophone Magazine, February 2017

“By turns scamperingly hyperactive, tender and skittish, [An airmail letter from Mozart is] a delightfully endearing portrait of Mozart sketched in a modern accent, and a blast to listen to…Nocholas Cleobury does a sterling job of marshalling the forces [in For an unknown soldier], which include a combined children's choir, and tenor Nicky Spence, whose contributions are memorably plangent” BBC Music Magazine, May 2017 ****

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Dove: Siren Song

Dove: Siren Song

Opera in one act. Premiere recording


Brad Cooper (tenor), Mattijs van de Woerd (baritone) & Amaryllis Dieltiens (soprano)

Siren Ensemble, Henk Guittart

Siren Song, by the British composer Jonathan Dove, is a chamber opera about the longing for love and the susceptibility to deception, which here receives its world premiere recording. Dove is best known for his operas, including Flight, which also received its premiere recording on Chandos and was applauded by the critics. The recording was made live at performances that took place at the 2007 Grachtenfestival in Amsterdam, where Dove was the composer-in-residence. The Siren Ensemble, specially formed for these performances, consists of ten young, talented musicians, most of whom have appeared at the festival in previous years. The Australian tenor Brad Cooper, who recently made his ENO debut in The Coronation of Poppea and will shortly appear in La traviata for the Nationale Reisopera in The Netherlands, takes the lead role of Davey. Henk Guittart, best known for his work as the violist of the Schoenberg Quartet, conducts.

The opera is based on a bizarre, true story. A young sailor on HMS Ark Royal exchanges letters with a beautiful and successful model personally unknown to him, yet with whom he becomes infatuated. Over time a romantic and passionate relationship develops, yet a meeting is increasingly difficult to arrange and Davey proves to be the victim of an elaborate deception. The composer writes, ‘When I first came across the true story which inspired Siren Song, I knew it had to become an opera. What initially appears to be a simple story of a sailor duped by a con-man turns out to have surprising depths… it is a story about the power of the imagination, and how we invent the people we love’. The Almeida Opera in London liked the idea, and commissioned Dove to write it. In 1994 Siren Song played to packed houses, received rave reviews, and attracted considerable attention. For Opera Now Rachel Connolly wrote, ‘The closely-woven, almost minimalist texture of Siren Song never once lacks dramatic momentum. The musical language is immediately accessible, belying, one suspects, a complexity of rhythm and harmony… If I was planning on introducing a beginner to opera, this is one I would choose’, while Alexander Waugh, in the Evening Standard, had this to say, ‘Siren Song is decidedly the most enjoyable contemporary opera I have seen for a very long time’. Of this production, Dove writes, ‘I was thrilled with the Grachtenfestival performances, staged with eloquent simplicity by Jim Lucassen and beautifully conducted by Henk Guittart. And I am delighted that, thanks to Chandos, Diana can once more be heard luring unwary sailors to their destruction’.

“Jonathan Dove's one acter, first given by Almeida Opera 14 years ago, is a gem of a piece from a composer who rarely puts a foot wrong in the opera house. Henk Guittart conducting the Siren Ensemble… relishes the simple subtleties of Dove's score: from the arresting opening, with an insistent xylophone over dark rising chords, to the echoes of a Gamelan Orchestra and shimmering bell-like sounds, when Davey the sailor lands respectively in Singapore and Bali. Brad Cooper is magnificent as the innocent sailor.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2008 *****

“Not since Benjamin Britten has a British composer succeeded in writing operas which communicate with such clarity and coherence to their audience as those by Jonathan Dove. The secret to his success lies partly in his experiences of writing 'community' operas, resulting in refreshingly open and accessible works. But there's also plenty of grit and grime beneath the polished veneer of his streamlined style, especially when the plot is as equally compelling and disturbing as it is in Siren Song.
The opera recounts the true story of a Royal Navy sailor (Davey) who becomes the victim of an elaborate hoax. Duped by means of letter exchanges into believing that the beautiful and alluring Diana lies waiting for him on terra firma upon completing Navy service, the hapless sailor parts with thousands of pounds in anticipation of marital bliss, all of which lines the pockets of Jonathan, the perpetrator of this ruse.
Dove's dramatic skill lies in his ability to create a seamless continuity by weaving cell-like musical figures from one scene to the next. His subtle manipulation of an undulating pattern first heard in the opening seascape scene is adapted to accompany a whole host of other states and situations. Given the seafaring setting, it's hardly surprising that echoes of Debussy's Lamer, Britten's Peter Grimes and Adams's TheDeath of Klinghoffer rise to the surface. Dove also shares with the latter composer an ability to generate large-scale structures from the simplest of musical means. But it is testimony to the Englishman's eclecticism that he skilfully appropriates such references into a language undeniably his own.
This live recording possesses its fair share of onstage clanks and offstage coughs, but at least they all lend an air of vraisemblance to proceedings, and the opera's rapid descent into the depths of deceit and desperation is effectively portrayed, despite the absence of visuals.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“Not since Benjamin Britten has a British composer succeeded in writing operas which communicate with such clarity and coherence to their audience as those by Jonathan Dove. …the opera's rapid descent into the depths of deceit and desperation is effectively portrayed.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2008

“Dove’s score is fluent and eclectic, and he evokes place and feeling with pinpoint accuracy. The cast is excellent, as is the playing of the purpose-built Siren Ensemble under Guittart.” Sunday Times, 27th April 2008 ***

“This recording, made at last summer's production at the Amsterdam Grachtenfestival, is expertly paced, and Dove's Adams-inspired sound-world is evocatively conjured up by the small chamber ensemble. The live nature of the recording does mean that some of the singing sounds too backward in the aural picture, but Brad Cooper's besotted Davey comes across well, as do the wily persuasive powers of Mattijs van de Woerd's conman.” The Telegraph, 17th May 2008

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Dove: There was a Child

Dove: There was a Child


Joan Rodgers (soprano) & Toby Spence (tenor)

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, CBSO Chorus, CBSO Youth Chorus & CBSO Junior Chorus, Simon Halsey

Jonathan Dove wrote 'There Was a Child' as a tribute to a friend’s son who died tragically young. Filled with both joyous celebration and heartfelt emotion, it’s a big, warm-hearted modern masterpiece in the spirit of Britten and Vaughan Williams – following in an evergreen English tradition and featuring the combined forces of the CBSO and CBSO Chorus, Youth Chorus and Junior Chorus with soloists Joan Rodgers and Toby Spence.

“[Rodgers and Spence are] unashamedly emotional and soul-baring, the lion’s share falls to the choruses, with radiant contributions from the CBSO’s various youth affiliates...There Was a Child is a major addition to the choral repertoire. Easy on the ear as well as uplifting, it deserves to be taken up by orchestras and choral societies on both sides of the Atlantic.” Financial Times, 4th August 2012 *****

“This is a live recording of an astonishingly assured performance...One might have preferred a less operatic voice than that of Joan Rodgers in this work, but this fine singer's performance is nonethless a most affecting one. Toby Spence has more to do, and he is ardent and passionate.” International Record Review, September 2012

“this is a significant work, one of the most important works I have heard in the last decade. I was very touched by the music and the performance.” MusicWeb International, October 2012

“This live recording…could hardly be more powerful or evocative, with sharp definition of the different textures, choral and orchestral, with children’s voices most moving of all. It would be surprising if Dove's touching inspiration did not inspire local choral societies to give it regular airings, encouraged by this fine recording.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2012

“It all plays to Dove's trademark strengths: the young choirs draw on his community music prowess and his approachable idiom shows his willingness to refract a multiplicity of influences..In this live performance of its premiere, conductor Simon Halsey's CBSO forces savour the music's immediacy.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2013 ****

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Dove: Tobias and the Angel

Dove: Tobias and the Angel


Omar Ebrahim (baritone), Hyacinth Nicholls (mezzo-soprano), Darren Abrahams (tenor), James Laing (counter-tenor), Kevin West (tenor), Maureen Brathwaite (soprano), Karina Lucas (mezzo-soprano) & Rodney Clarke (baritone)

The Young Vic, David Charles Abell

Born on 18 July 1959, Jonathan Dove is one of Britain’s leading composers of opera, choral works, theatre, film, orchestral, and chamber music. His community opera Tobias and the Angel premiered in 1999 at Christ Church, Highbury Fields in London, was taken up in 2005 by the Young Vic / English Touring Opera during the refurbishment of the Theatre’s regular venue, and was the first opera performed at the newly revamped Young Vic in 2006. The libretto, by David Lan, is based on the Book of Tobit from the biblical Apocrypha. Dove has written more than twenty operatic works on a wide range of subjects and is the most performed contemporary opera composer in the UK.

The colourfully biblical story of Tobit, who is blinded after daring to give a fellow Jew a proper burial, and the ensuing adventures of his son, Tobias, is vividly portrayed. The story particularly appealed to the composer, who said: ‘The tale has a mystical aspect, but also the character of a Jewish folk-tale, especially the scene in which Tobias is threatened by a huge fish, kills it, and is instructed to take out its heart and gall – which turn out to have magical healing properties.’

Although the racial oppression and demonic possession which are part of this work are fully developed, it is undoubtedly one of Dove’s brightest, even serene, scores, possessing immense appeal and communicative power. The nine instruments of the orchestra provide plenty of colour, for example effectively evoking the Jewish elements of a klezmer band, and David Lan’s libretto does a masterly job in telling the story in an almost cinematic way. This is the work’s premiere recording.

“...there's a wealth of invention and imagination here which gives it a value beyond the walls of a theatre, church or any other performing space...Darren Abrahams perfectly captures the early naïveté of Tobias...and his evolution into a calm and poised husband, while countertenor James Laing exudes serenity as the accompanying angel.” International Record Review, July/August 2010

“The solo roles are expertly cast and sung, with magnificent support from the children's and adult choruses...As a purely aural experience this is a deeply satisfying production. Everyone involved sounds as though they are having the time of their lives. An outstanding release.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2010

“Darren Abrahams’s youthful tenor is well suited to Tobias, hero of this apocryphal biblical yarn about listening to your heart. And Dove’s attractive score (like John Adams sprinkled with Britten, plus a little Jewish folk music) bounces brightly out of the speakers.” The Times, 31st July 2010 ****

“...the vocal style is in Dove's recognisable voice and listener-friendly mode...fluent and memorably lyrical. As a musical dramatist, one of Dove's strengths is that he knows when to let the music take the back seat and allow us to concentrate on the words and action.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2010 ****

“...this Chandos release bristles with a fresh, zesty vitality that is wholly becoming. Performances throughout are exemplary: the Tobias of Darren Abrahams adroitly pitched between innocence and juvenile brio, countertenor James Laing’s Raphael potently serene and full of otherworldly nuance...A delight from start to finish.” Michael Quinn, bbc.co.uk, 25th August 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - September 2010

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A Christmas Caroll from Westminster Abbey

A Christmas Caroll from Westminster Abbey


Chilcott:

Shepherd's Carol

Dove:

The three Kings

Gruber, F:

Silent Night

Arranged by Christopher Bowers-Broadbent

Head, M:

The Little Road to Bethlehem

Lavino:

Nativity

Leighton:

A Christmas Carol, Op. 21

Mathias:

Ave Rex, Op. 45

Pearsall:

In dulci jubilo

Poulenc:

Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël

Rutter:

Dormi, Jesu

trad.:

Joys Seven

Arranged by Stephen Cleobury

I saw three ships

Arranged by James O’Donnell

Walton:

All this time


The first of this month’s ‘double bill’ from Westminster presents a delightful and unusual selection of music for Christmas from the Abbey Choir. It encompasses all the diverse themes of Christmas which have inspired composers across the ages: light shining in darkness; the tenderness of mother and child; the fulfilment of promise; and the warm merriment of corporate celebration.

An excellent selection of contemporary carols features the composers Jonathan Dove and Bob Chilcott among others. The richness of twentieth-century church music is illustrated in works by Poulenc, Walton, Mathias and Leighton, and by the heartbreakingly lovely piece The little road to Bethlehem by Michael Head. Skilful arrangements of the traditional carols Silent night, In dulci jubilo and I saw three ships, complete this attractive seasonal release.

“An ambitious and superbly sung programme, sympathetically framed within the choir's spaciously atmospheric home acoustic.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2008 *****

“The Christmas Eve carol service at Westminster Abbey is one of the most warming events in the festive calendar, and this CD captures the atmosphere beautifully … The singing is a constant delight” The Telegraph

Presto Disc of the Week

8th December 2008

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An Ebor Epiphany

An Ebor Epiphany

Epiphany Sunday at York Minster


 

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness

Rheinhardt MS, 1754

Briggs:

Infant holy

Dove:

The three Kings

Dyson:

Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis in D

Howells:

Collegium Regale: Te Deum

Monk, E G:

Venite

Moore, P:

Preces Set III

Psalm 113

Responses Set III with Collects

Lord, when the wise men came from far

Shephard:

Te Deum laudamus

Strauss, R:

Die heiligen drei Könige aus Morgenland Op. 56 No. 6

arr. Shephard

Walton:

All this time

Jubilate Deo

Widor:

Messe à deux choeurs et deux orgues, Op. 36


David Pipe, Ben Horden (organ)

The Choir of York Minster, Robert Sharpe

York Minster is the greatest medieval church in northern Europe. Here, the greater Festivals of the church’s calendar are celebrated with music tailored to the theme of the Day, and sung by the Minster’s magnificent choir, under the direction of Robert Sharpe.

This new recording, the first in a projected series, presents Epiphany Sunday at York Minster – the ‘twelfth night’ after Christmas Day, marking the pilgrimage of the Three Kings, ‘Magi’, or Wise Men, to the infant Jesus. The three services of the day - Matins (‘Morning Prayer’), the Eucharist or Holy Communion, and Evensong (‘Evening Prayer’) - are sung with a selection of the celebratory music that might be heard in the Minster on Epiphany Sunday.

In addition to Widor’s well-known large-scale Mass setting at the Eucharist, and famous canticle settings by Walton, Dyson and Howells at Matins and Evensong, there are new works receiving their first recording from David Briggs, (an Epiphany carol commissioned by the Minster in 2012), Philip Moore, and Richard Shephard.

“[the Minster choir] just lack the final degree of polish with the placing of notes at the beginning of phrases, plus the odd moment of ensemble. However, there's a pleasing equality of tone between upper and lower voices, and their expressive singing encompasses with ease the wide spectrum of musical styles...A rewarding CD” Gramophone Magazine, April 2013

“Discs by English Cathedral Choirs have been issued in apparently increasing numbers in the last few years but few are of the quality and imagination of this disc.” MusicWeb International, 7th June 2013

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Anthems for the 21st Century

Anthems for the 21st Century


Bignold:

Peace

Blackford:

On Another's Sorrow

Clucas:

Hear my crying, O God

Dove:

Bless the Lord, O my soul

Filsell:

Mysterium Christi

Jackson, Gabriel:

Now I have known, O Lord

MacMillan:

Chosen

Moore, P:

I saw Him

Rathbone, J:

Absolon, my Son

Swingle:

Give us this day

Todd:

Angel Song II


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A Song of Farewell: Music of Mourning & Consolation

A Song of Farewell: Music of Mourning & Consolation


Dove:

Into Thy Hands

Elgar:

They are at rest

Gibbons, O:

Drop, drop, slow tears

Howells:

Requiem

MacMillan:

A Child's Prayer

Morley:

Funeral sentences

Parry:

Lord, let me know mine end (No. 6 from Songs of Farewell)

Sheppard, J:

In manus tuas I

Walton:

A Litany 'Drop, drop slow tears'

White, Robert:

Christe qui lux es et dies


Continuing Signum’s new partnership with Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort following the triumphant success of Berlioz’s 'Grande Messe des Morts' (SIGCD280 –, their next release will be a recording of the groups' renowned a cappella programme of music for mourning and consolation. This is a beautifully poignant programme of British choral music, including works by composers as diverse as Morley and Dove, Sheppard and Walton and featuring Howells’ sublime 'Requiem'.

“This is a concept album, a sequence of purgative music on the theme of death by a wide range of British composers from the English Renaissance to today.” Sunday Times, 11th March 2012

“The singing is immaculate...MacMillan's music is as technically demanding as it is emotionally powerful and it is a a wonder that these exceptional young singers make it all sound so effortless.” Classic FM Magazine, April 2012 *****

“For me, the highlight is Herbert Howells’s Requiem, grief seeping from every cadence. It’s beautifully sung by Paul McCreesh’s Gabrieli Consort in an acoustic that sounds aptly like a tomb but is, in fact, Ely Cathedral.” The Times, 17th March 2012 ****

“Any disc subtitled 'Music of Mourning & Consolation' is not going to be a bundle of laughs. But Paul McCreesh has devised such a satisfying programme of mostly short a cappella pieces that the effect is the reverse of depressing.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2012

“there are numerous indications of the elevated artistry Paul McCreesh and the 22 singers of his Gabrieli Consort bring to this beautifully planned and executed programme...There's also much emotion in the performances. McCreesh's choice of sopranos who either have little vibrato or can eliminate it when requested has a palpable impact...This is a superlative, unmissable issue.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2012 *****

“Already in Gibbons’s Drop, Drop, Slow, Tears there are numerous indications of the elevated artistry of Paul McCreesh and the 22 singers of his Gabrieli Consort.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas Issue 2013

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - May 2012

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Awake my soul

Awake my soul


Bingham, J:

Missa Brevis: Awake My Soul

first recording

The Shepherd

first recording

Bussey:

Done is a battle

first recording

Byrd:

Miserere mei

Chilcott:

Be thou my vision

Dove:

Seek him that maketh the seven stars

Farrant, R:

Hide not thou thy face

Leighton:

An Easter Sequence: The Lord is my shepherd

Morgan, H:

The Quality of Pity

Parry:

I was glad

Blest Pair of Sirens

arr Craig Sellar Lang

Tallis:

Salvator mundi

Terry, D:

O little one sweet

first recording

Vaughan Williams:

Five Mystical Songs: Antiphon


Jonathan Hope & Peter Wright (organ)

The Girl Choristers and Lay-Clerks of Southwark Cathedral Choir, Stephen Disley

The first recording featuring the Southwark Cathedral Girl choristers, with the Lay-clerks.

A wide-ranging survey of English choral music from the 16th to 21st centuries.

Includes first recordings of works by Judith Bingham, Martin Bussey, David Terry, and Huw Morgan.

Begins and ends with two major choral works by Parry – I was glad and Blest pair of Sirens - both works featured in the 2011 Royal wedding of Prince William and Katherine Middleton.

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