ìOne Foot in Eden Still, I Standî: Choral Music by Nicholas Maw.

This present anthology by the Schola Cantorum of Oxford offers an interesting collection of his choral works, works whose texts and idioms make clear the composerís native connection to the English tradition, while at the same time they reveal a diverse and individual voice. Mawís music is often Romantic in spirit, though modern in harmonic language, while his contrapuntal bent, like the texts he sets, evokes earlier ages, still.
The Three Hymns (1989), settings of seventeenth-century devotional poetry, are alternately exuberant and intimate, with the second of the set, ìPastoral Hymn,î exhibiting a spry quality reminiscent of Brittenóthe text even seems somewhat resonant with Christopher Smartís ìRejoice in the Lambîóand text-inspired contrasts of pace and register are familiarly madrigalian. The Britten influence is clear in some of the Five Epigrams (1960), as well, such as the crisp frolic of the engaging ìAndrew Turner.î Sometimes the nod is more in the direction of Vaughan Williams and Holst, as in the folk-song like ìPopular Songî from the Five Irish Songs (1972). These examples doff the hat to notable forebears, and scattered here and there, remind us of the rich tradition to which Mawís work is connected.
Mawís gift for lyric lines is well in evidence in works like the Christmas carol ìBalulalowî and ìSwete Jesu,î the latter a commission for the annual Lessons and Carols broadcast from Kingís College Cambridge. And in ìSwete Jesuî an imbedding of the melody amid flowing contrapuntal lines in the second verse is especially memorable. This developmental sense is also particularly compelling in works like the beautiful Irish song, ìRingleted youth of my love,î where extended homophonic declamation warmly blossoms into more complex writing for subsequent verses.
The singing of the Schola Cantorum of Oxford is in the main very satisfying here. Complicated harmonies are handled with confidence, difficult figurations with dexterity, and the expression of the performances proceeds from a welcome sense of ownership and engagement. A recording of interest, this anthology underscores the continuing cultivation of English choral music by composers of the first rank.
Steven Plank

image_description=One Foot in Eden Still, I Stand
product_title=“One Foot in Eden Still, I Stand”
Choral Music by Nicholas Maw.
product_by=Schola Cantorum of Oxford; Mark Shepherd, conductor
product_id=Hyperion CDA67615 [CD]