This attractive CD dedicated to the choral music of Kenneth Leighton is indeed timely, not only because this year marks the 20th anniversary of the composer's death, but also due to the fact that there seems to be a lull in his popularity.
One must not forget that Leighton, like his boyhood hero Howells, and such eminent names as Warlock, Britten and Ireland contributed greatly to the list of English church music and his many compositions contain a deeply spiritual quality which is moving and also inspiring.
All the choral pieces on this disc have a strong predilection with hymns, something Leighton tinkered with all his life, and in both "Sequence for all Saints" and "The World's Desire", congregational hymns are included.
Even the organ meditation, "Rockingham" is built on an eponymous hymn tune. "Morning Canticles" and "O God, enfold me in the sun" alternate between moments of peace and stirring climaxes, but a feeling of wonder and piety is never amiss.
The Wells Cathedral Choirs have a tradition as old as the building itself (almost 800 years), and all this wealth of experience allows the singers to squeeze all the emotion possible out of these hugely rewarding pieces. Owens keeps a tight rein all through, but his approach is never dictatorial. Fine sound and annotations complete a valuable addition to the Leighton discography.
Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech