Music for the Queen of Heaven – Contemporary Marian Motets by Lennox Berkeley, Hilary Campbell, Stephen Dodgson, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Herbert Howells, Gabriel Jackson, James MacMillan, Matthew Martin, Cecilia McDowall, Andrzej Panufnik, Roxanna Panufnik & Judith Weir

Reviewed on Thu 23 Nov, 2017

Typical of the finely blended, nuanced singing on offer is Andrzej Panufnik’s Song to the Virgin Mary, moving from translucent rapture to rapturous ecstasy with liquid ease.

Here’s another exquisitely accomplished recording from Delphian to cap a year of successes. Herbert Howells’s youthful Salve Regina stretches the definition of contemporary to its limits, but otherwise this is a fine and varied compendium of modern Marian motets. Throughout, the mixed-voice Marian Consort sing with requisite amounts of delicacy and robustness finding both the poetry and passion in these often sublime devotional songs. Typical of the finely blended, nuanced singing on offer is Andrzej Panufnik’s Song to the Virgin Mary, moving from translucent rapture to rapturous ecstasy with liquid ease. By contrast, Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s Gaude et Laetare is rhythmically forthright and bold, Roxanna Panufnik’s Magnificat intricate and involving, the chaste simplicity of James MacMillan’s soft, suspended harmonies in Ave maris stella rising to a hypnotically serene conclusion. There’s something in all 12 pieces to catch and hold the ear, with the intimately recorded sound perfectly framing immaculate performances deftly led by Rory McCleery.
–Michael Quinn