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Sea Change
Ensemble Detail(s)
Cambridge Singers
Label name
Conductor details
John Rutter

Work Title


Bennett's idiom is here at its most attractive. His choice of texts takes in Elizabethan poetry, medieval carols, and a Missa brevis in which the music's jazzy verve is deftly offset by a beautiful concluding Agnus Dei. Sea Change brings together four highly imaginative settings of Shakespeare (from The Tempest), Marvell and Spenser, complete with chiming bells; and A Farewell to Arms, its texts framed by a solo cello, shows that the cost of war preoccupied the age of Elizabeth I as much as that of Elizabeth II. A disc for pundit and punter alike.
Malcolm Hayes, Classic fM Magazine, 5/1/2005

Richard Rodney Bennett's is a rich, nostalgic harmony, pivoting relentlessly from sweet discord to half-resolved concord. When firmly rooted in a text, this style provides inspiring material; Shakespeare's Tempest texts are revealed in Vaughan Williams-like lushness; the Elizabethan poetry calls forth similarly personal response … it is hard to imagine a more persuasive and personal rendering of this charming music.
William Whitehead, BBC Music Magazine, 4/1/2005

I have to confess, from the outset, that all of the music was new to me when I played this disc, but getting to know it has been an unalloyed pleasure. In Sea Change, extracts from The Tempest frame Marevll's The Bermudas and an extract from Spenser's The Faerie Queene: these are wonderful evocations of the ever-changing sea, angular, dissonant, turbulent, even sprech-gesungen in Spenser's evocation of the monsters that lurk within its deeps. The most recent work included here, A Farewell to Arms, juxtaposes settings of Jacobean and Elizabethan verse on the subject of the old soldier recalling his salad days of bravery, in peaceful retirement, with a wistful, nostalgic cello solo of haunting beauty weaving through its dense and intricate polyphonic fabric. That Bennett sees himself as part of an identifiably English tradition is clear from his Missa Brevis, which pays tangetial homage to Britten but even more so to the rich Medieval and Tudor heritage of church music (this is, surprisingly, Bennett's only liturgical work). But many of the settings here, most notably Verses from John Donne's The Litanie, are religious in spirit. The most touching music on this lovely disc are the personal tributes: A Good-Night, his deeply moving In memoriam to Linda McCartney, the late wife of Paul, and a friend, in 1999. The singing is superb throughout… this is an outstanding disc which can only enhance Bennett's reputation as a composer who reaches out to as wide an audience as possible while remaining true to himself.
Hugh Canning, International Record Review, 3/1/2005

Hard to believe, I know, but this is the first CD devoted solely to Sir Richard Rodney Bennett's extensive choral output. That it's a richly reqarding body of work is nowhere better exemplified than in the curtain-raiser. Composed for the Donald Hunt Singers, Sea Change comprises a marvellously effective, 17-minute cycle to texts by Shakespeare. 'The waves come rolling' from The Faerie Queen thrillingly evokes the terrible monsters encountered by the knight Sir Guyon during a stormy sea voyage by employing a technique akin to sprechgesang, while the concluding 'Full fathom five' strikes me as a worthy successor to Vaughan Williams's setting in his Three Shakespeare Songs. Whereas Sea Change minimally and subtly deploys tubular bells, A Farewell to Arms memorably incorporates an extensive role for solo cello and sets the same poems by Ralph Knevet and George Peele that Finzi first brought together for his eponymous 1945 diptych. It's a tenderly moving creation, as is the 1999 part-song A Good-Night from the fund-raising sequence A Garland for Linda (commemorating Sir Paul McCartney's wife, who succumbed to breast cancer). If Britten's shadow looms large over the Missa Brevis that Bennett wrote in 1990 for Cantebury Cathedral Choir, it's a no less appealing creation for all that (try the gorgeous, yet never cloying Agnus Dei). Exemplary presentation and admirable sound, tastefully balanced within the comparatively intimate acoustic of LSO St Luke's in the City of London. I heartily recommend this delightful anthology. Editor's Choice
Andrew Achenbach, The Gramophone, 5/1/2005

Beautifully sung and even more beautifully recorded, this disc made it to the Second Round of this year's [Gramophone] Awards. And what a rewarding programme it is. Sea Change sets words by Shakespeare, Marvell and Spenser in a language that always has an appealing trick up its sleeve: the use of tubular bells is a masterly stroke. As is the solo cello in A Farewell to Arms, a tender and poised meditation. If the Missa brevis occasionally summons up memories of Britten, that's hardly unworthy company for any composer. Recorded in the lovely acoustic of the LSO's home, St Luke's, this is a ravishing disc by one of today's most versatile and original voices.
, The Gramophone, 9/1/2005

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