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Leighton - Crucifixus - Gramophone

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Kenneth Leighton’s remarkably consistent musical style means that his characteristic traits, such as extensive use of chromaticism and syncopation, plus intricate counterpoint, are ever present.  However, anyone expecting his music to sound all the same should listen to the two radically different settings of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis.  The adventurous harmonic language often leads to tonal ambiguity, and one feels that the calm repose of a simple quite major/minor chord is only reached by a troubled musical journey.

The uncomprising complexity of Leighton’s music presents severe challenges to singers and organists but the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge cast aside these with performances of unsurpassed excellence.  Under the experienced direction of Stephen Layton, their articulation and phrasing are always faithful to the texts, and the composer’s detailed marking are meticulously observed.  High praise is also due to tenor Andrew Kennedy (soloist in the Crucifixus pro nobis), and organists Jeremy Cole and Eleanor Kornas.

My only reservation with this disc is the resonant acoustic of Lincoln Cathedral, which sometimes reduces clarity in works which include the organ.  Despite the best efforts of the singers and organists, fast and loud passages become somewhat muddied in the vast spaces, and listeners may prefer the clearer, more transparent recording by the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge, on Naxos.  Under Christopher Robinson’s direction, their singing is consistently first-rate; however, the emotional intensity of the Trinity College singers places their performances in a class of their own.  Hyperion’s richer and warmer sound also gives their disc the edge over the Naxos CD; it may well turn out to be one of the finest choral recordings I’ll hear this year.

Christopher Nickol

Leighton - Crucifixus
Hyperion Records CDA68039