Ode for St Cecilia’s Day
Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Ian Bostridge (tenor); Polish Radio Choir; Dunedin Consort/john Butt
Linn CKD 578 61:15 mins
To mark the 15th anniversary of Kraków’s Misteria Paschalia festival, its artistic director John Butt led and recorded ★andel’s Ode for St Cecilia’s Day. Butt brought star soloists and the Dunedin Consort with him, creating an incandescent performance – by his artists. The Polish Radio Choir couldn’t quite keep up.
Despite missed moments, you should catch Carolyn Sampson,
Ian Bostridge and the Dunedin in this ★andel masterpiece. They glide through the score in utterly ravishing ways that transcend rival recordings, as when cellist Jonathan Manson takes flight in ‘What passion cannot music raise and quell!’; Sampson’s soaring silver tones in response have a numinous quality absent from her earlier recording of this music for ★yperion. Butt’s tempos are daringly slow and his silences perfectly timed, bringing out the terse beauty of ★andel’s vocal and instrumental lines. Bostridge bonds music to word-meaning so persuasively that they become a single heartfelt utterance, as in ‘The Trumpet’s Loud Clamour’.
The Polish Radio Choir is bold and precise, but remote. ‘The Trumpet’s Loud Clamour’ is about yielding to war’s madness; this the band does, with a boisterousness that borders on pure noise, while the choir just gets louder. Consider also the Ode’s finale: after a towering call-and-response between soprano and trumpet, the choir’s stately homophony feels anticlimactic.
It’s not wrong, but given what the soloists just did it’s not right either. Yet the strengths of this recording vastly outweigh its weaknesses. It concludes with a crisp rendition of ★andel’s Concerto Grosso in A minor. Berta Joncus PERFORMANCE