This is an exceptional and very handy collection of international choral motets and psalms. While it doesn't hold many of the classic hymn standards, it features a surprising variety of composers' work to create a unique anthology. The Choir of St. John's, Elora is frankly unchallenged by any other choir in the world when it comes to this kind of thing. Each of the now five recordings by the 22-member choir for Naxos have simply been outstanding. To the credit of everyone involved, the collection focuses on the role of the motet and psalm in a variety of traditions. So often a collection like this would be primarily English in nature. The English are here, as befits a nation that housed some of the finest musicians in this genre, but so too are the French, and even an American.
I didn't need another version of Tavener's The Lamb, and you probably didn't either, but it's a marvelous and justly popular work. Everything else on this generously-filled disc is entirely welcome and hard to find elsewhere. The tracks are sensibly laid out to create a real sense of flow, and the quality of singing, organ playing, and interpretation is first-rate. Even if you don't gravitate naturally to such a recording, you may find yourself captivated by the sheer tonal beauty of the works here. It's especially interesting to look at the evolution of religious music over time, and how easily the Elora singers navigate the changing moods and texts.
Noel Edison has proved himself to be one of the finest choral conductors working today. Each recording he and his choirs make is not only terrifically sung, but very well engineered. This disc is no exception. Balances between sections are superb, and the acoustics at the choirs' home base in Ontario are equally so. Simply stunning.
Copyright © 2013, Brian Wigman