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Leighton - Crucifixus - BBC Music Magazine

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The text of Kenneth Leighton’s cantata Crucifixus pro nobis is the ecclesiastical equivalent of a snuff movie, the blue lips, gushing blood and ugly bruises of the crucified Christ’s body dwells on lugubriously in the Jesuit Patrick Carey’s poem, with the ostensible aim of heaping blame upon the listener.

The graphic images invite boldly expressionistic music, but in fact for much of the time Leighton’s setting is characterised by a restrained intensity.  The writing is at its finest when tenor Andrew Kennedy is singing: his contribution is altogether gripping, and unstintingly committed.  There’s wonderful quiet singing from the choir in the concluding ‘Drop, drop slow tears’, where the plangent purity of the soprano line is specially impressive.

The account of the Missa brevis is if anything even better, Leighton’s elliptical language parsed with extreme acuity by conductor Stephen Layton.  He elicits great subtleties of expression from his young singers, in a work which like many of its abbreviated kind could easily glide by in an instant, leaving not so much trace behind it.

Of the shorter works, the Manley Hopkins setting of God’s Grandeur is particularly striking, but really there is not a dull track on this deeply empathetic, consummately performed selection.

★★★★★ Performance
★★★★★ Recording

Terry Blain

Leighton - Crucifixus
Hyperion Records CDA68039