Stabat Mater – Sacred Choral Music by Lennox & Michael Berkeley
Marian Consort; Berkeley Ensemble; David Wordsworth
It is indeed a pleasure to witness the resurrection of a worthy, yet neglected English vocal work, particularly when performed so eloquently as by the Marian Consort. They deliver this 20th-century musical setting of the 13th-century text with all the precision, depth of feeling and intimacy required. Lennox Berkeley’s Stabat Mater was originally commissioned by Benjamin Britten who premiered the work in 1947 with his English Opera Group tour. The next known performance took place at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1953 and the BBC presented a broadcast performance in 1965. The intricate scoring calls for four-part chorus and 12 exceptional instrumentalists (flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, harp, percussion and string quartet) and conductor David Wordsworth, who serves as chairman of the Berkeley Society, leads the ensemble with great sensitivity and meticulous execution.
Berkeley’s exquisite Mass for Five Voices was composed for the choir of Westminster Cathedral in 1964. In this and another a capella work Judica me, the Marian Consort fully exploits their experience performing early music with perfect intonation and diction. The recording ends with Touch Light by Lennox’s son Michael Berkeley; a rapturous nod to Monteverdi with its sensuous dissonances and highly ornamented phrasing.