Beauty, purity, and expressivity mark out music for upper voice choirs. On this recording, performed by one of the UK’s leading vocal ensembles, the repertoire embraces classics of the genre such as Gustav Holst’s sublime Ave Maria and his third group of Hymns from the Rig Veda, as well as contemporary music. James MacMillan and Sir John Tavener are represented by works that explore their unique musical language, whilst Bob Chilcott’s technically demanding The Song of the Stars offers richly approachable pleasures.
This release offers a pair of fairly early Delius works; they may not be instantly appealing to those making a start with this idiosyncratic English impressionist, but confirmed fans will love them. The roots of Frederick Delius’ Appalachia lay in his experiences as an orange plantation manager in Florida in the late 1880s, where he heard the singing of African-American laborers and, according to his own testimony, first began to think about becoming a composer. The work is subtitled “Variations on an Old Slave Song with Final Chorus for baritone, chorus, and orchestra,” and everything about it is intriguingly confused. Florida is not part of Appalachia. Nor is the Mississippi River delta, which Delius claimed was the inspiration for the work, but which he apparently never saw.