VAUGHAN WILLIAMS A Hymnal; Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, conducted by Richard Marlow (Conifer 51249). HEALEY WILLAN Tenebrae Responsaries and Missae Breves, Choir of Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Toronto, conducted by Robert Hunter Bell (Virgin 45260). Here are two quite different choral offerings to warm the heart of any musical Anglophile. "A Vaughan Williams Hymnal" shows another side of the composer's character. Although an avowed agnostic, his respect for tradition led the composer to accept a 1904 commission to edit a new Anglican hymn book. The 21 hymns sung on this CD were selected and edited with congregational singing in mind, rather than anthems to be sung by a trained choir. These performances have a very unforced, natural quality which suggests a congregation, but without the raucousness and imbalance untrained voices invariably present. Rating: 1/2 . "Tenebrae Responsaries" by the English-Canadian composer Healey Willan is the third in a series of recordings of liturgical choral works by Willan which he composed during his remarkable 47-year tenure (1921-1968) as director of music in Toronto's Anglican Church of Saint Mary Magdalene. The two prior releases were enthusiastically reviewed here in July 1995 and April 1996, and I can only report that this third volume is "more of the same," consisting of five settings of the Missa Brevis and three Tenebrae services. The music breathes in a wonderfully spacious, pure, vaulted choral sound which would be envied by any choral director, and the engineers have captured the bloom and resonance of the sanctuary in Willan's church perfectly. Rating:**** 1/2 .
-- Herman Trotter
RACHMANINOV Songs, Nina Rautio, soprano, with Semion Skigin, piano (Conifer Classics 75605 51276 2). It takes a strong singer to tackle Rachmaninov, whose songs are gorgeous, operatic and brooding in the best Russian tradition. Rautio, with her tremendous soprano voice, is certainly up to the task. She all but hurls herself into a generous 24 songs dating from various times in Rachmaninov's life, including the sweeping "Oh, do not grieve," the whimsical "Oh, do not sing to me, beautiful maiden," and the ardent love song that begins "Do not believe me." But her voice sounds a bit too operatic, too big-scale for quieter songs, such as the famous "Lilacs." Skigin, whose work with the great Sergei Leiferkus has proven him a terrific accompanist of Russian songs, handles the treacherous piano parts with flair. Unfortunately, the sound quality could be better; Rautio's voice buzzes on the high notes. Rating:*** .
-- Mary Kunz
MARK TURNER (Warner-9-46701-2); GREGORY TARDY Serendipity (Impulse IMPD-256). You certainly don't have to ask where the good young tenor players are coming from. Turner, at 32, has been around a while and contributed strong solos to some disc jam sessions and other people's discs and had his own disc on Criss Cross but has never before had the kind of exposure his eponymous disc is going to give him. New Orleansian Tardy looks so young in all the pictures in the "Serendipity" notes that there are any number of local bars that would probably proof him at the door. He's classically trained and has already had a three-year stint with Elvin Jones and, before that, played for hat money on street corners. (Shades of guitarist Stanley Jordan.) Neither one is going to roar and wail James Carter off the stand, but both are first-rate, if unambitious, on these discs. Turner uses Joshua Redman's fine rhythm section and has Redman himself on tap for three tunes (including one by Lennie Tristano and Ornette Coleman's beautiful "Kathelin Gray") and has all the authority tenor players have to have and some delicacies that some never have. Rating: 1/2 . Tardy, if nothing else, is smart enough to know that when you play a melody as yearningly lovely as Thelonious Monk's "Ask Me Now" (arguably the most beautiful of all Monk tunes), you don't mess around with it (which is something, by the way, his revered elder Joe Henderson has never known.) He's got trumpet player Tom Harrell, pianist Mulgrew Miller and bassist Reggie Veal (another New Orleansian) in respectively increasing company, but he desperately needed a drummer as lithe and mercurial as he is. In the best company, he might well be a monster player. Rating:**** .
-- Jeff Simon
(1) All My Life, K-Ci & Jojo (MCA). (2) Frozen, Madonna (Maverick). (3) Nice & Slow, Usher (LaFace). (4) My Heart Will Go On, Celine Dion (Sony). (5) No, No, No, Destiny's Child (Columbia).
(1) "Titanic" Soundtrack (Sony Classical) (2) Let's Talk About Love, Celine Dion (550 Music). (3) Life or Death, C-Murder (No Limit). (4) Van Halen 3, Van Halen (Warner Bros.). (5) Ray of Light, Madonna (Maverick).
(1) Perfect Love, Trisha Yearwood (MCA). (2) Nothing But the Taillights, Clint Black (RCA). (3) If I Never Stop Lovin' You, David Kersh (Curb). (4) Little Red Rodeo, Collin Raye (Epic). (5) Then What?, Clay Walker (Giant).