This programme explores that vast twentieth-century secular English choral repertoire which goes under the generic title ‘partsongs’. It is an extraordinarily rich repertoire to which almost all the famous composers contributed. Buried amongst vast quantities of slightly twee pastoralism – the much-derided “cow-pat” school – are to be found many settings of glorious poetry, forming a corpus of sublime twentieth-century madrigals at least as fine as their famous renaissance forebears. However, this programme has another particular theme: how poets and composers reflect upon the natural world as a metaphor for our own emotional experience. At the heart of this programme is the complex relationship between man and nature, the bitter-sweetness of a radiant and beautiful dawn creating the same unbearable sadness of a ravishing song, and both with intimations of mortality.
★★★★★ This is a simply gorgeous CD, superbly executed – Choir and Organ
★★★★ The Gabrieli Consort, conducted by Paul McCreesh, sings Stanford’s The Blue Bird with such abstracted beauty that enchantment sets in from the opening minutes. Their collection of English part-songs mostly inhabits a dreamy, pastoral world, the home ground of Howells, Warlock and Vaughan Williams, though Elgar’s bleak Owls (loneliness or foreboding of death?) goes further. Outgoing narrative settings by Jonathan Dove and Grainger add story-telling and a dash of bold colours – Financial Times
★★★★ The effect is arresting, and typical of the attention to text and score demonstrated by Paul McCreesh and his singers. These miniatures are rich, each in need of proper savouring – The Observer
★★★★ The selection of pieces is evocative and thoughtful… Stanford’s The Blue Bird is concentrated and controlled, with a lovely clarity of line and a fine-grained elegance of sound. This song exemplifies the many virtues of the performances on this disc – Planet Hugill
The result is a clever mixture of moods – a disc that takes the part-song into the 21st century not only in repertoire but also in style – Gramophone
Successful and very cherishable… The key to its success is the gorgeous attention to detail which draws the most exquisite sounds from the choir – Music Web International