Stanford
Choral Works
Trinity College Choir, Cambridge/Stephen Layton
Hyperion CDA68174

We have long needed a first-class, user-friendly collection of sacred Stanford. Now we have one. Too often this repertoire is made to sound wholly English, and the Irish-born, German-trained Stanford was anything but. So congratulations to the performers here (sumptuously recorded), for their unfailing energy, dash, and force, banishing all suggestions of Hyacinth Bucket and Jane Marple.

The Te Deum, in the composer’s own rearrangement with brass and timpani as well as organ, evokes at times Lully praising Louis XIV. Elsewhere, as with the strangely neglected For Lo, I Rise Up, occasional hints of Wagner and even of Stanford’s old foe Richard Strauss occur. Repeatedly Stanford’s sheer concision impresses afresh. Not a single bar anywhere resembles padding. 

Few ensembles would dare attempt the Magnificat, with its abundant exposed a cappella lines and Bachian filigree; but Trinity College’s Choir treats its challenges as if they were negligible. For variety, Hyperion includes a big organ solo, played with great panache by Owain Park, which includes frighteningly difficult pedal passagework. The choristers’ diction could advantageously have been sharper – fortunately the booklet includes all texts – but the stunning, Edinburgh Military Tattoo-style rendition of St Patrick’s Breastplate ensures an unforgettable close. This release will be on innumerable Christmas want-lists for 2017.