Mater ora filium – Music for Epiphany

Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, Graham Ross
72:44
harmonia mundi HMU 907653
Music by Byrd, Clemens, Lassus, Mouton, Palestrina, Sheppard, etc.

This eclectic collection of choral music for Epiphany ranges from the director’s own arrangement of traditional material through the music of English and Continental composers to 20th-century masters. Focusing on the Renaissance music, we have full-blooded accounts of Lassus’ eight-part Omnes de Saba  and Sheppard’s six-part Reges Tharsis, both beautifully nuanced. Byrd’s four-part Ecce advenit dominator Dominus  and Palestrina’s Tribus miraculis  both exploit the choir’s more lyrical side, while Clemens non Papa’s Magi veniunt ab oriente  and Mouton’s Nesciens mater  show this versatile choir’s approach to Franco-Flemish polyphony.

The performances of what boils down to some twenty minutes of early music are all accomplished, with neat clarity and impeccable intonation throughout. Their selection of more modern music is also discerning, leaving as the only slightly disappointing aspect Graham Ross’s own rather hackneyed ‘cathedrally’ arrangements of tradition melodies. Aimed at the American market, this CD provides a very pleasing overview of the celebration of Epiphany in a modern College Chapel with all the many virtues of an accomplished College Choir fully on display.

D. James Ross