Magnificat 3

Magnificat 3

Magnificat 3
Director of Music: 
Andrew Nethsingha
Organ Scholar: 
George Herbert
Release date: 
March 2023
Featuring: 
  • Angus Crichton-Stuart, Joshua Davidson, Lucas Nair-Grepinet (treble)
  • Alasdair Austin (counter tenor)
  • Carlos Rodríguez Otero (tenor)
  • Thomas Butler, Alexander Hopkins (bass)
Record label: 
Signum
Catalogue number: 
SIGCD742
Awards: 
Editor's Choice
Gramophone
May 2023
Gramophone Award Shortlist (Choral)
Gramophone
September 2023

The third instalment in our critically-acclaimed Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis series, featuring nine settings of the Evening Canticles and recorded whilst Andrew Nethsingha was Director of Music.

Compared to the expansive musical periods showcased in the previous Magnificat volumes, Magnificat 3 centres on a much more focused period of just twenty years (1945-1965). By doing so, Nethsingha showcases the contextual impact of the dates of composition on a much more heightened scale than before - from George Dyson’s setting composed at the close of World War II to Bryan Kelly’s canticles written at the height of the Swinging Sixties.

Magnificat 3 also explores three generations of composer-pupil relationships in settings by Charles Villiers Stanford, Herbert Howells and Bryan Kelly. Stanford’s Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis in B flat was described by his self-proclaimed “son in music”, Howells, as an “astonishing work”. Howells’ impression of Kelly’s Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis in C was less straightforward: “My dear, I will tell you one thing about your setting. After each performance, the church will have to be re-consecrated!”.

Two of Howells’ works feature on the album. The inclusion of Howells’ Westminster Service seems especially appropriate in light of Andrew Nethsingha’s appointment as Organist and Master of the Choristers at Westminster Abbey earlier this year. His St Paul’s Service is illuminated by an in-depth musical analysis by Former Director of the Royal School of Church Music, Andrew Reid, included in the album booklet.

The album opens with Pavel Chesnokov’s Nunc Dimittis. A leading Russian choral musician in the 20th century, he gave up composition forever after the Soviet authorities destroyed the cathedral where he worked - a story which only seems more poignant today in light of the war in Ukraine.

The album also features Philip Moore’s setting commissioned especially for the choir in 2006, the year before Andrew Nethsingha began his 15-year tenure with the choir. Nethsingha has dubbed him “the finest living representative of the long tradition of British organist-composers".

Other settings include Dyson’s Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis in F and Leighton’s Collegium Magdalenae Oxoniense, one of two settings of Evening Canticles by the composer, and the second to feature on a St John’s album.

This release is the latest in a series of recordings dedicated solely to the Evening Canticles, with previous releases Magnificat and Magnificat 2 released in 2019 and 2021 respectively. Both were critically acclaimed and were awarded a Gramophone Editor’s Choice; Magnificat 2 was described by BBC Music Magazine as “a package that no lover of the Anglican choral tradition will want to miss.”

Carlos, a member of the choir at St John’s, said:

“Recordings at St John’s are some of the most enjoyable things we do, and Magnificat 3 has been a particularly fulfilling project for me personally. We recorded it during my first year in the choir, during which I felt enormously privileged to encounter the St John’s approach to repertoire both familiar and new. Each provides different musical challenges, and offers opportunities to grow as individuals and as a group. All within, of course, the supportive and warm atmosphere of our choir, and under Andrew’s totally inspiring direction. That has been the most enriching part of my experience at St John’s: we love singing this music, and we love singing it together, and I hope this comes through in our new album.”

Track list

  1. Nunc Dimittis from 'Six Choruses for Mixed Voices' Op.40 No.4 (Pavel Chesnokov)
  2. Magnificat 'St Paul's Service' (Herbert Howells)
  3. Nunc Dimittis 'St Paul's Service' (Herbert Howells)
  4. Magnificat 'Sancti Johannis Cantabrigiense' (Philip Moore)
  5. Nunc Dimittis 'Sancti Johannis Cantabrigiense' (Philip Moore)
  6. Magnificat 'Collegium Magdalenae Oxoniense' (Kenneth Leighton)
  7. Nunc Dimittis 'Collegium Magdalenae Oxoniense' (Kenneth Leighton)
  8. Magnificat 'Westminster Service' (Herbert Howells)
  9. Nunc Dimittis 'Westminster Service' (Herbert Howells)
  10. Magnificat in F (George Dyson)
  11. Nunc Dimittis in F (George Dyson)
  12. Magnificat in B flat (Charles Villiers Stanford)
  13. Nunc Dimittis in B flat (Charles Villiers Stanford)
  14. Magnificat in C (Bryan Kelley)
  15. Nunc Dimittis in C (Bryan Kelley)

Booklet

Reviews

The choir inflect works spanning a world-changing few decades, from the First World War to the 1960s, with distinct personality while maintaining a core sound that’s always free and full, refreshingly natural (if trebles naturally phrased with this level of taste and care). It’s sad that Nethsingha’s departure means that the next volume will be the last. I can’t think of a greater or more apt epitaph to the music director’s time at St John’s

Alexandra Coghlan, Gramophone

This ongoing series has not only been a beautifully prepared and sung tribute to the Anglican canticle tradition, but also to Andrew Nethsingha’s brilliant leadership of music at St John’s

Martin Cullingford, Gramophone

What a wonderful performance: the dynamics, the contrasts, the utter confidence of the singing... Excellent solos, boys in great fettle, acoustic well-captured. It’s a fine series, this: anyone who’s ever sung or loved this kind of Anglican church music should be impatient for more

Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3 Record Review

As Director of the choir of St John's College Cambridge, Andrew Nethsingha – now organist and master of the choristers at Westminster Abbey – turned an already first-class choir into an exemplary, adventurous ensemble... These contrasting works, embracing solo writing and full-bodied, lavish textures, give the choir the chance to display their warm sound and versatility. They do, wholeheartedly

Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian

The album includes illuminating booklet notes by Andrew Nethsingha... there is much to appreciate in this fine collection. All the singing is of the standard we have come to expect from St John's, well augmented by George Herbert on the chapel organ... Over his time at Cambridge Andrew Nethsingha has done nothing but enhance the Choir of St John's and his successor has some big shoes to fill

Steven Whitehead, Cross Rhythms

Another triumph for Nethsingha and St John's

Colin Clarke, Classical Explorer

This disc is a worthy successor to volume 2 in the series

David Truslove, Opera Today

The performances throughout are outstandingly expressive, beautifully balanced and always entirely suited to the nature of each setting…the entire presentation and documentation attached to this disc are of a quality one hopes to see, but is rarely satisfied, from other record companies

Robert Matthew-Walker, The Organ

Throughout the programme the performances are consistently fine; they are clearly the work of a choir that has not only been thoroughly trained in the music but which also has a deep collective understanding of the texts they are singing

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Recorded on
9 March 2024

 

A Meditation on the Passion of Christ is a service of music and readings reflecting on the Passion of Christ. This year the service features music by Byrd, Purcell, Weelkes and MacMillan, as well as the final piece of a triptych of works written for the choir by Joanna Marsh.

Latest news

Magnificat 4 includes two commissions written specially for the Choir of St John's College; Jonathan Dove's 2022 canticle setting St John's Service, and Judith Weir's 2011 service of the same name.

Winner of the 2008 Ivor Novello Award for classical music, Jonathan Dove CBE has composed a broad range of works and is one of the most successful British composers today. 

Jonathan was kind enough to share insights into his St John's Service, the compositional process, and what we can look forward to in the future.

The commitment, projection and natural energy of this choir have never failed to inspire me

Organists’ Review