Rhian Lois soprano
Samantha Price mezzo-soprano
Alessandro Fisher tenor
Morgan Pearse baritone
BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales
Adrian Partington

Lyrita SRCD435

Stanford’s major choral works have been lucky on disc recently with the Brabbins/Hyperion Requiem and the Hill/Naxos Stabat Mater prime examples.  Lyrita, with the same conductor orchestra and chorus as on this new disc, offered the Mass ‘Via Victrix’

Lyrita now complete the set of the major choral works with the Te Deum Op.66 written for the Leeds Festival (and its famed chorus) to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1898.  As befits a major festive, celebratory work this is a big setting, running to 45 minutes here with 8 part chorus, four soloists and a large orchestra with a significant organ part.

If you are familiar with Stanford’s style there is nothing greatly to surprise here, but I do feel the sweep of the writing, the grandeur of the setting, and the sheer dynamic energy of the music, impresses more than in some of the other works mentioned. 

Conductor Adrian Partington draws playing and singing of great skill and ardour from his BBC Welsh forces – the choral work is extensive and demanding but the Welsh chorus here rise fully to the occasion.  The four soloists are likewise well matched and balanced, and they sing Stanford’s Italianate, near operatic lines with theatrical fervour.  I enjoyed hearing tenor Alessandro Fisher again after his excellent On Wenlock Edge for Albion Records. Soprano Rhian Lois is fearless in attack although her actual sound is coloured by a noticeable vibrato.

The coupling is an unexpected but rather impressive early work.  This is his Elegiac Ode of 1884 – Stanford’s first major offering to a British choral festival, and furthermore one of the first significant settings of the poetry of Walt Whitman.  I usually associate Whitman with the generation who came after Stanford – I wonder if Vaughan Williams knew this work when writing his Toward the Unknown Region?

Jeremy Dibble in his predictably fine and illuminating liner notes suggests this is a quasi-choral symphony with the four movements (running for 27:12) playing continuously.  Certainly, the structure and form is well handled and impressive with some of the orchestral writing more novel than the grand Te Deum.  Baritone and Soprano have significant solos and again all elements of the performance convince.

Lyrita’s production and presentation is reliably good. The booklet includes full texts which is useful as the Whitman is not always intelligible by ear alone. The booklet has one small entertaining typo – the track list for the Te Deum has No.5 as ‘Miserere Nostril’ – what a difference a ‘L’ makes…  The Hoddinott Hall sounds suitably opulent and full with the organ excitingly present.  A disc that all fans of Stanford or 19th Century British Choral music will be delighted to acquire. 

Review by Nick Barnard