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
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.