The Choir of Harvey’s alma mater, St John’s College, Cambridge, has recorded a selection of his sacred choral music for release on Signum Classics.
The disc includes premiere recordings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis with organ (1978), and Praise ye the Lord (1990). Also featured are two works commissioned by St John’s: The Royal Banners Forward Go (2004) and The Annunciation (2011), a 4-minute setting of Edwin Muir which was written to mark the College’s Quincentenary celebrations.
Released in May 2016, the disc also includes two works for organ: Laus Deo (1969) and the astonishing (yet rarely heard) Toccata for organ and tape (1980). In the latter work, developed at IRCAM, an agile, brilliant organ part is set against an almost moto perpetuo stream of electronic sound.
‘This album pays wonderful tribute to Harvey. Works include the ecstatic Praise Ye the Lord and the richly challenging Missa Brevis… Harvey used to describe music coming out of silence and dissolving back into it. It’s a good starting point. The Choir of St John’s tackles all with confidence and clarity.’
The Observer (Fiona Maddocks), 1 May 2016
‘Outstanding on every count: remarkable and underperformed repertoire...’
‘Harvey stretched the limits of Anglican church music in a way not seen, really since Tippett’s Evening Canticles, but did so with regularity and consistency… The Magnificat is epic in scope; it is hard to believe that it lasts just under eight minutes. Certainly these are difficult works, including various vocal techniques (whispering, glissandos, percussive repetition of consonants, etc) hardly common in the normal run of church music, but the investment the choir has clearly put into them really gives extraordinary results. Outstanding on every count: remarkable and underperformed repertoire, beautfully performed and recorded.’
Gramophone (Ivan Moody), July 2016
‘A questing, individual spirit.’
‘Harvey recalled how liberating he found writing for a cathedral-type choir. Perhaps that is why the music on this disc is so varied and inspiring… The Missa Brevis ranges from the numinous to the awestruck. A couple of organ works, one with electronic tape, maintain the aura of a questing, individual spirit.’
The Financial Times (Richard Fairman), 20 May 2016
‘In addition to being irresistible music, the works on this outstanding disc are crucial to understanding his output as a whole… I Love the Lord is more conventionally written, yet sounds almost as if electronics are involved in creating its mesmeric harmonic haloes.’
BBC Music Magazine (Christopher Dingle), August 2016
‘A valuable contribution to the Harvey discography and the composer’s growing posthumous reputation.’
Choir and Organ (Philip Reed), 8 August 2016
Read Director of Music Andrew Nethsingha’s personal reflections on Harvey’s music here
More details about the recording, released on Signum Classics, can be found here