Haec dies: Music for Easter

Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, Matthew Jorysz organ, Graham Ross
72:56
harmonia mundi USA HMU 907655

This collection of choral music for Easter covers most of musical history with plainchant, music from the Renaissance, and a selection of pieces running right up to modern times. I shall focus mainly on the earlier material, which is generally beautifully sung by the mixed voices of the Clare College Choir. If the opening account of Lassus’ Aurora lucis rutilat  occasionally lacks the punch necessary to bring out its poly-choral structure, the narcotic account of Taverner’s Dum transisset  which follows is exquisite.

The lively Surrexit Christi hodie  by Samuel Scheidt demonstrates the choir’s versatility, as does Byrd’s jubilant setting of Haec dies. Giovanni Bassano’s elegant Dic nobis Maria  is given a lovely rhythmical rendition although Palestrina’s Terra tremui t is a trifle legato for my taste. Lassus’ Surrexit Pastor bonu s is also a little bland, but the choir warms again to Byrd’s Pascha nostrum. The disc is given a pleasing symmetry, ending with Lassus’ Magnificat octavi toni super Aurora lucis rutilat  which is sung with vigour and a rich tone. The regular insertions of plainchant, which is also well sung, provides a useful time machine between the different eras. Probably my favourite track on the CD is the dramatic account of Stanford’s flamboyant Ye choirs of new Jerusalem. There is a great variety of musical styles represented here, and generally speaking the chorister rise to the challenge well, entering the idiom of each piece in turn.

D. James Ross