BBC Music Magazine

There’s plenty of pathos in this imaginativ­e passion

Soloists, choir and musicians come together to create a rich and outstandin­g drama, says Kate Wakeling

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Gabriel Jackson The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Emma Tring (soprano), Guy Cutting (tenor); Choir of Merton College, Oxford; Oxford Contempora­ry Sinfonia/benjamin Nicholas

Delphian DCD 34222 69:01 mins

This outstandin­g recording of Gabriel Jackson’s retelling of the Passion story bursts with energy. Commission­ed by Merton College Oxford in 2014, the piece celebrates the 750th anniversar­y of the foundation of the college, drawing on all four gospels alongside texts written by Mertonians ancient and modern, including Edward Reynold’s ‘General Thanksgivi­ng’ from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and TS Eliot’s Four Quartets.

Jackson’s engaging score is richly colourful and his instrument­al writing proves a particular highlight. The ensemble features an appealing mix of strings, piccolo (doubling alto flute), saxophone, bass clarinet, horn, harp and percussion which lends the score a refreshing originalit­y, while also allowing Jackson to conjure something of the antique, from the declamator­y shawm-like fanfares of the opening

Gabriel Jackson’s engaging score is richly colourful

‘Palm Sunday’ to the courtly mystique of ‘Anointing at Bethany’. Jackson’s vocal writing is similarly arresting, moving between punchy dissonance and passages reminiscen­t of early hymnody.

Soloists Emma Tring (soprano) and Guy Cutting (tenor) capture the drama and pathos of the score, with Tring performing with a particular­ly gorgeous richness, most notably as the ‘weeping woman’ at the house of Simon the Pharisee. There is some exceptiona­l instrument­al playing from the Oxford Contempora­ry Sinfonia under the baton of Benjamin Nicholas, while the Choir of Merton College brings vibrant clarity to the score’s sprung rhythms and radiant a cappella passages. With top-notch recording quality to boot, this is an imaginativ­e, moving and majestic retelling of the Passion story that deserves the widest of audiences.

PERFORMANC­E ★★★★★

RECORDING ★★★★★

 ??  ?? A cappella clarity: the Choir of Merton College
A cappella clarity: the Choir of Merton College
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