This release was officially launched today and to mark the occasion was played on BBC's 'In Tune' this evening. It is available to buy from our shop - and you can read a special blog post about different versions of the Mozart Requiem here.
"Another Mozart Requiem? Surely not!" A somewhat negative view, and not one anybody interested in New College Choir would have, I'm sure. If we followed its implication ("we have enough versions already"), then there would be no further recordings of any Beethoven symphonies, or piano sonatas, or Wagner operas, or Rachmaninov piano concertos, etc, etc. The rising generation of musicians would be told: "Thank you very much, but we are not really interested in what you have to say about these works: we prefer to live with the performances we know – we like living in the past." That's not what New College intends to do! All the same, there has to be something new and distinctive about a recording of a warhorse. And there certainly is with the New College version of the Mozart Requiem. Let's start with the fact that it is sung by a choir of boys and men; let's go on to say that the solos are sung by voices from this choir, and that the ages of these singers range from 12 to 22. Not possible you say. Buy it and see whether it's possible! You will be impressed by a level of accomplishment wholly matching a team of seasoned professionals. But what you also get is a coherence of sound and approach between choir and soloists rarely heard in such performances. And this would have been a circumstance well-known to Mozart, who only months before his death had been offered the post of Kappellmeister at St Stephen's Cathedral Vienna. When you add to the above the contribution of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, there is a very special conjunction of talent and style. So, that's why it's been worth recording Mozart's Requiem another time. And this version is worth catching up with.
Available here: http://www.newcollegechoir.com/mozart-requiem-recordings.html
"This anthology of folksong contains a representative selection of the genre from both sides of the Atlantic. Some of the arrangements are well-known, other have been made especially for this recording."
We are delighted that Warner Classics have decided to reissue Early One Morning, unobtainable for some time now despite numerous requests! Here it is again, albeit with a much more 'contemporary' cover...
It is now available again to buy directly from us
from our shop.
For a limited time, here's a bonus sample track - Down by the Sally Gardens
, arranged by Edward Higginbottom:
From oldest to newest...
Yesterday we uploaded a new photo album to our Facebook page
: it's a collection of album covers that we believe to be more or less our entire discography. This is the first time many of these album covers (and certainly the LPs) have been available to view all in one place and in high resolution. At the bottom of each individual image there is a link to the corresponding back cover, including track list.
While many of our discs are available to browse in our shop
(currently 56), our full discography comprises of over 110 individual releases (and a good few box sets). In the coming months we'll be looking at how best to present this discography, and this is the first step in that process.
You don't need a Facebook account to view the discography image album - click on any thumbnail to open the full size picture: view here
These days there is a choice of versions of the Mozart Requiem. Given the circumstances of the completion of the work by hands other than Mozart’s, there has been a growing suspicion that the best use may have not been made of either his surviving work and sketches, or indeed his verbal instructions. Thus there have appeared in the last 50 years completions by H.C. Robbins Landon, Richard Maunder, Duncan Druce and Robert Levin. The merits of these new versions have been argued by the editors on particular criteria. That for instance, of the sections not surviving in Mozart’s hand, some of the part-writing is clumsy, or the tonal structure weak, or the writing frankly perfunctory. The Hosanna sections come in for frequent criticism: why so short and matter of fact? And why in different keys (first in D and the second in B flat)? These are difficult issues to deal with because they involve value judgments. But one thing is for sure: Hosannas in Viennese masses were always short, since the Sanctus+Hosanna section had not to overlap the up-coming prayer of consecration and Elevation of the Host, recited privately by the priest. It was the role of the Benedictus to act as an Elevation motet, and the music needed to move on to this part of the mass as soon as decently possible. As for the key-changes, they can as much be seen as a successful innovation as a lapse in structural integrity. In fact the decision to reprise the Hosanna in B flat makes so much more sense in the context of a Benedictus in B flat major and an Agnus Dei in D minor. So, in these two instances, we may think that the hands which completed Mozart’s work in the late 18th-century knew their liturgical timings, and showed discrimination in assessing musical effect. Who is to say that Mozart may not have left verbal instructions about novel key arrangements, or that the sketch for a final Amen chorus to the Lacrimosa was definitely Mozart’s last intention, or that the Sequenz does not end successfully with the plagal Amen of the Lacrimosa? We do not have to think that the Amen has been ‘tacked on’, and that it would be better if it been given its own separate movement.
Who were these additional compositional hands? We have three in evidence in the extant materials: those of Joseph Eybler, Franz Jakob Freystädtler and Franz Xaver Süssmayr. Süssmayr’s contribution, by far the most significant - since from the Sanctus onwards, the work is in his hand – is the contribution most heavily criticized. A reason given is that Süssmayr otherwise didn’t write anything like as good (first put about by Constanze Mozart). This certainly might be a reason for his becoming an easy target. But it is also a reason for thinking that Mozart’s ideas were transmitted with some fidelity, surpassing Süssmayr’s normal level of accomplishment. When we contemplate what might be thought of as an expedient in dealing with the music of the Lux aeterna, where Süssmayr simply reprises music heard in the first two movements of the work, we are confronted with a very moving truth about the genesis of the Requiem: that Mozart was too exhausted by his illness to suggest new music for the final sections, but aware enough to know the strength and effectiveness of a wholesale reprise.
One way and another, one is drawn to Christoph Wolff’s conclusion that the Süssmayr’s completion is ‘the only document that represents the genuine musical truth of the unfinished work’. It is this completion you hear on the new recording
by New College.
I have just spent a few days in the company of the Choir of St Thomas' Fifth Avenue New York, at their 38th annual conference for choir directors. I had the pleasurable task of directing the Choir for three services, and demonstrating to the conferencees the British empirical way of choral conducting. The St Thomas' boys and men are as fine a group of church musicians as you'll find in the USA, coupled with an openness and enthusiasm hard to match. So at one level I had only to bring them in, and they did the rest. And yet it was intriguing to hear them modulating their approach confronted with my suggestions. It vindicated the idea that a conductor has some function in life! St Thomas' is a roomy church which takes a big sound, and these singers certainly can produce that, with plenty of treble power among the 30-odd choristers. But Byrd's Second Service doesn't so much need noise as style, and this they can provide also. We had an interesting time rescoring the work as TrTTBarB, and examining the possibility that in Byrd's day tenors rather than altos took those highly active and, for altos, very low inside parts (when sung at the right pitch). The last thing I conducted was Wesley's Blessed be the God and Father, where it was scarcely possible to imagine a more rounded and generous sound from the choir. The presiding genius of the Choir is of course John Scott. He continues a pattern, set by T. Tertius Noble, of British organists contributing much to the music of the American episcopalian church. And I hope that when I left New York, I left his choir none the worse for my tampering with it. If his singers were even remotely as enriched as I felt on boarding my return flight at JFK, then it was an extremely worthwhile visit.
The new home for our webcasts
After over a year of discussion and months of building, today finally sees the launch of our brand new website. This isn't just a redesign, but a completely new build, so please bear with us while we iron out any problems that pop up!
First and foremost: this website has been built, and is now maintained, completely in-house at New College using an online publishing platform. Particularly for our regular online visitors, I've summarised some of the new additions to the website that I hope you'll find both useful and interesting.What are the main changes?
- Clarity. Let's actually start with something we've tried not to change. One of the most common compliments we had on our outgoing website was its simplicity and clarity. We hope that, despite the new look, layout, images and features, you still find our website easy to use with information that's both clear and correct. Of course, we'd like to hear from you if you don't think that's the case!
- News. All our news will come through this blog from now on. It enables us to categorize stories as well as to file them by date. Both these lists you'll be able to see over to the right: they enable you to view all news on a particular topic (for example, our tour diaries) or all news from a certain month.
- Music List. We've sadly had to do away with the automatic display of the current day's music - one of the downsides of managing a website in-house is that we have to be economical with the time it takes us to maintain it - and unfortunately this functionality didn't pass that test. What we do now offer is the additional option of downloading the music list as a PDF, as well as the Chapel term card and the organ music list.
- Buying our CDs. Lots of changes here. We now use RBS WorldPay to process payments so that our customers can be sure that buying directly from New College Choir is safe and secure. There's a new browse list, where you can sort by composer, album name and release date, and there's also a search bar where you can search for the name of any track, album, artist (e.g. a particular orchestra) or composer. A selection of our available CDs are featured on the main page of our shop. While we sell nearly 60 of our CDs currently, this represents only around half of our entire discography; in the coming months we'll be looking at compiling a comprehensive discography resource for the website.
A page for one of the many CDs available to buy from us
- Information. We've added further information on Lay Clerks, the Choir Partnership Programme, Chorister Open Days, Choral and Organ scholarships and Choral Services.
- Social Media. Over the past year we've set up Facebook, YouTube and Twitter presences so that supporters and friends of the Choir can easily keep up to date with our news. Using these services also means that we can spread what we do to people who wouldn't otherwise hear the Choir, as well as make it easier for anyone to get in contact with us. Many of the pages on this site have share buttons on them to make it easier for you to share anything you find interesting with friends, and we've also now got a page which explains our maintained presences on other sites so that the purpose of our use of them is both clear and defined.
- Webcast Archive. At the beginning of every term, our list of available webcasts is 'refreshed' with the first new service of the term. While we think it's important not to have services up too long, and to reflect the University term structure that choral services at New College follow, taking popular webcasts down has disappointed some people. Our new webcast archive has a selection of performances from choral services at New College that are no longer available on the webcast player. Some you'll find were never published as a webcast and so are available to listen online for the first time.
- Directions. There is an assortment of directions and maps to help new visitors who wish to come to a service at New College.
- Sample tracks. Almost every CD page now has a sample track for you to listen to online - even ones that are many years old.
That's more than enough for now - please do have a browse, and feel free either to tell us what you think by commenting below, or contact us
directly: we very much hope you like it!