Landscape and Time


The King’s Singers present a disc of some of their best and most requested repertoire.

We are all shaped, perhaps unconsciously, by the landscape and time in which we live. This evocative and spiritual programme, which contains five King’s Singers commissions, explores the links between human life and it’s surroundings through the different personal languages of poets and composers.

Richard Rodney Bennet The Seasons of His Mercies
John McCabe Scenes in America Deserta
Cyrillus Kreek Taaveti laulud
Jackson Hill Remembered Love
Peter Maxwell Davies House of Winter
Jean Sibelius Rakastava
Zoltán Kodály Esti Dal
Bob Chilcott Even Such is Time



What people are saying

“Impeccable singing conjures up landscapes real and imagined” The Gramophone

“The King’s Singers (here with the collaboration of outstanding treble Andrew Swait) are on absolutely stunning form throughout” International Record Review

The King’s Singers

David Hurley
Robin Tyson
Paul Phoenix
Philip Lawson
Christopher Gabbitas
Stephen Connolly

with Andrew Swait (Treble)

Release date:1st Nov 2006
Order code:SIGCD090
Barcode: 635212009024

The Ottawa Citizen, February 2007

There’s probably no better-known vocal sextet in the world than the King’s Singers, six gentlemen from Cambridge who have been entertaining audiences everywhere for something like three decades. Although their live performances normally feature a big segment of light music, this CD consists entirely of serious repertoire.

That isn’t to say that it’s particularly grave or solemn. Aside from the “landscape and time” theme. its common denominator is the exquisite execution of 11 beautiful pieces. Familiar composers like Kodaly and Sibelius are represented, but the most memorable items are John McCabe’s Scenes in America Deserta and Peter Maxwell Davies’ House of Winter. Another highlight is a set of four psalm settings by the composer Cyrillus Kreek.

Rated Excellent

BBC Music Magazine, January 2007
Performance ***** Sound *****
The King’s Singers are approaching their 40th birthday and, perhaps because they have so stubbornly (at times irritatingly) mixed frivolity and seriousness in their performances down the years, are too easily dismissed or taken for granted.

This new CD is entirely ‘serious’ in tone, and a timely reminder of the stunningly high musical standards the Singers bring to bear in this kind of unaccompanied vocal repertoire. Half the content is comprised of works that they themselves have commissioned, including John McCabe’s Scenes in America Deserta, a sequence of linked tableaux spanning fifteen minutes. Upward and downward glissandos, quasi-Sprechgesang pitching, and perilously exposed end-of-line consonants, among other things, are all demanded, and delivered with jaw-dropping levels of accuracy and interpretive commitment.

Peter Maxwell Davies’s ‘House of Winter’ (another KS commission) sketches an ice-touched Orkney landscape, its atmosphere distilled in restrained dynamics and strange, other-worldly (and often very difficult) intervals. Pieces by Richard Rodney Bennett, Cyrillus Kreek, Jackson Hill, Sibelius and Kodály also feature, with the brief Sir Walter Raleigh setting ‘Even such is time’ by Bob Chilcott (a KS alumnus) poignantly rounding off the recital. Singing of rare distinction, outstanding in its tonal blend of controlled vibrato.

Andrew Clements

Classic FM Magazine, January 2007, ****

Words and music weave together to evoke reflections of place and memory in this album, its programme elegantly constructed and beautifully performed by the King’s Singers. The best of these fine pieces, of which Bennett’s The Seasons of His Mercies and Maxwell Davies’s House of Winter take precedence, echo unconscious experiences of being in time and space. Estonian composer Cyrillus Kreek, in his Psalms of David, provides a direct, folk-built bridge between western and eastern notions of time’s passing, paving the way for Jackson hill’s sensitive exploration of occidental and oriental cultures, Remembered Love.

Andrew Stewart

The Gramophone, February 2007

As the title suggests, the works here share a double theme. All eight evoke landscapes of varying types, from the wide-open, multicoloured desert of the south-western USA (McCabe) to the ancient vistas derived from Japan (Jackson Hill) and Finnish literature (Sibelius), from folklore (Kreek and Kodaly) to Walter Raleigh’s jail cell as he awaits execution (Chilcott)

Five of the works are commissions by the King’s Singers, so unsurprisingly they prove well suited to their impeccably manicured vocal blend, enchanting the ear from first to last note. The McCabe and Maxwell Davies are the oldest, both from 1986. Although the innocent ear might be hard-pressed to identify the composers, they are both typical products of their creators’ expressive missions, satisfying to hear and challenging to sing, especially McCabe’s with its kaleidoscopic range of tonal colours. No less beautiful is Richard Rodney Bennett’s The Seasons of his Mercies (setting Donne in 1992), part of a larger cycle, as are Jackson Hill’s vibrantly oriental Remembered Love (2005), party of a diptych setting words by the 7th-century poet Hirotamo, and former group-member Bob Chilcott’s Even such is time (1993). A pity at least one of these could not have been given in full: there is room enough.

It may seem strange to hear Rakastava sung by such a small ensemble but the performance is vivid and beautifully balanced. So, too, are Kodaly’s brief Evening Song and the four Psalms of David set in his native Estonian by Cyrillus Kreek, from whom Part and Tormis learnt much. Signum’s sound is warm and close but the acoustic of St. Andrew’s Toddington gives the music room to breathe.

Guy Rickards

International Record Review, February 2007

A disc advertised as ‘evocative and spiritual’ is likely to send me running for something self-referential and earthy, but one need have no fear at all of any vacuous New Age-ism in the present case. In fact, there is plenty of earth underpinning it, from John McCabe’s visceral landscape-piece Scenes in America Deserta to the frosty reality of George Mackay Brown’s House of Winter, as set by Peter Maxwell Davies, and Kreek’s marvellously tangible psalm settings, by way of Sibelius meditating on love and more. The King’s Singers (here with the collaboration of outstanding treble Andrew Swait) are on absolutely stunning form throughout. I remember them singing Scenes in America Deserta in a live performance some 15 years ago, which left a somewhat vague impression on me, but there is nothing vague about either music or performance here: McCabes’s detailed responses to the imagery of Peter Reyner Banham’s prose, with all their technical challenges, receive an outstanding rendition. The work is prefaced by Richard Rodney Bennett’s luscious Donne setting, ‘The Seasons of his Mercies’, from the cycle Sermons and Devotions, and followed by a set of four psalm settings by Cyrillus Kreek, all of which glory in the sound of the Estonian language and the textural variety achievable by a small, expert group of singers. I particularly liked ‘Õnnis on inimene’, with its unforgettable melody given to the countertenor.

I can’t imagine hearing Maxwell Davies’s House of Winter (it’s surely one of his most immediately appealing scores) any better sung than this, and in a way it forms the climax of the sequence, for though Sibelius’s Rakastava which follows is beautifully rendered, it initiates a gradual decrescendo in terms of the disc’s programming. It precedes Kodály’s Esti Dal and Bob Chilcott’s Even Such is Time, both softly spoken. This is but a small objection in these days of programmable CD players, of course, and the anthology can be highly recommended to enthusiasts of The King’s Singers, of contemporary music and choral music in general, alike.

Ivan Moody

  1. The Seasons of His Mercies – Richard Rodney Bennett (b. 1936) – [6.39]
  2. Scenes in America Deserta – John McCabe (b. 1939) – [14.57]
  3. Taaveti laul – Cyrillus Kreek (1889 – 1962): Taaveti laulud – [4.49]
  4. Onnis on inimene – Cyrillus Kreek (1889 – 1962): Taaveti laulud – [2.09]
  5. Taaveti laul 141 – Cyrillus Kreek (1889 – 1962): Taaveti laulud – [2.26]
  6. Taaveti laul 121 – Cyrillus Kreek (1889 – 1962): Taaveti laulud – [3.27]
  7. Remembered Love – Jackson Hill (b. 1941) – [8.27]
  8. House of Winter – Peter Maxwell Davies (b.1934) – [11.52]
  9. Rakastava – Jean Sibelius (1865 – 1957) – [7.46]
  10. Esti Dal – Zolt?n Kod?ly (1882 – 1967) – [3.17]
  11. Even Such is Time – Bob Chilcott (b. 1955) – [2.50]

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