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CHAN 10495
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CHAN 10495

Leighton: Orchestral Works, Volume 2

The Classical Shop
release date: November 2008

Originally recorded in 2008


BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Richard Hickox

Gareth Rhys-Davies


Sarah Fox


National Chorus of Wales


Brangwyn Hall, Swansea


Brian Couzens


Ralph Couzens

Jonathan Cooper


Record Label



Orchestral & Concertos

Total Time - 57:26
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premiere recording

Symphony No. 2 (Sinfonia mistica), Op. 69 (1973-74)

  for Soprano Solo, Chorus and Orchestra  
1 1 Sonnet. Adagio e sostenuto (ma ritmico) - 6:16
2 2 Scherzo I. Allegro molto e ritmico - Meno mosso 8:51
3 3 Meditation. Adagio molto e sostenuto - 6:53
4 4 Elegy. Pochissimo più mosso, ma sempre sostenuto 7:11
5 5 Scherzo II 'Sic vita'. Allegro e molto ritmico - 3:04
6 6 Finale. Molto adagio e sostenuto - Un poco più mosso - 16:27

Te Deum laudamus (1964, orchestrated 1966)

  for Soprano Solo (or Semi-chorus), Chorus and Orchestra  
 Gareth Rhys-Davies baritone
 Sarah Fox soprano
 Richard Hickox
  27 and 28 November 2007  
Richard Hickox conducts the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in the second volume of Leighton’s orchestral works.

BBC Music Magazine wrote of volume 1, ‘Hickox directs superbly paced and eloquent performances of this fine music.’

Volume 2 presents two large-scale orchestral works, Symphony No.2 ‘Sinfonia Mistica’, which receives its first recording; coupled with Te Deum Laudamus in its orchestrated version.

One of the most successful British composers of the latter half of the twentieth century, Kenneth Leighton’s lifelong musical relationship with the human voice, exemplified in the two works of this recording, began as a chorister in the choir of Wakefield Cathedral as a young boy. It was to impact greatly on his writing. Over the course of his life he wrote almost continually for the voice, absorbing vocal lines in all settings. It provided an excellent vehicle for some of his most lyrical and expressive writing.

Leighton wrote three numbered symphonies. Symphony No.2 was composed in 1974 as a direct response to the death of his mother, and Leighton referred to the work as a ‘meditation on the subject of death.’ Composed over six movements and approaching an hour in length Sinfonia Mistica contains some of Leighton’s most personal and reactionary music, being at various times angry and emotional, yet serene and thoughtful. While he describes the symphony as a ‘requiem’ the conventional texts for this service are not employed, instead he used texts by John Donne, George Herbert and Henry King, poets who have been a constant source of inspiration to British composers.

The original setting of Te Deum was written for choir and organ, but two years after its completion, Leighton received a request from the Oxford Bach Choir for an orchestral version of the work, which was completed in 1966. Scored for chorus and full orchestra it is an imaginative setting of what is a liturgical text of praise, and written in honour of St Cecilia. This climatic work contains some of Leighton’s most enduring and significant music.

Chandos has received widespread appreciation for embarking on this revelatory new orchestral series. Volume 3 will be released in spring 2009.

"This is a hauntingly compelling recording of some of Kenneth Leighton’s most inspired music... It is music of a profoundly spiritual nature, and its six movements of much imagination as well as musical logic.// The orchestral version of his magificent Te Deum laudamus, amkes a fine bonus to an outstanding  CD/ The orchesta and chorus were inspire to great heights inthis recording, and the sound itself is of femonstration quality."

The Penguin Guide - 1000 Greatest Classical Recordings 2011-12

It is seldom given to concert goers or reviewers to be gripped by the feeling that a masterpiece (that over-used work) is unfolding before one’s ears. Repeated listenings to Leighton’s Second Symphony have not dispelled my first impression. This Chandos release is a more than worthy follow-up to its predecessor and the third volume is impatiently awaited. Meanwhile I cannot do better than urge this new release on all those with ears to hear, for Leighton’s Sinfonia mistica is, I humbly submit, indeed a masterpiece.
International Record Review

Despite its monumental aspect the Sinfonia mistica is essentially a personal, intimate work, and it gets a moving performance here, Richard Hickox judging to a nicety the various movement’s complex succession of tempos, and their ebb and flow of intensity. Sarah Fox is a pure-voiced poignant soloist, and the BBC National Chorus of Wales sound very confident, as if this was a repertoire standard for them. Chandos’ recording catches the glow and bloom of Leighton’s orchestration very effectively. His 1964 Te Deum, at once festal and thoughtful, makes a satisfying coupling.
BBC Music Magazine

The soloist in this breathtaking performance of the symphony is soprano Sarah Fox, whose emotional intensity and power of delivery get right to the heart of a work inspired by the death of the composer’s mother. If the words – from various poetic sources – give literal immediacy to the soul-searching profundity of this work, the instrumental halo transports us into an unimaginably sublime dimension
The Scotsman

Both performances are beyond reproach. Sarah Fox sings with refulgent tone, commendable accuracy and shining intelligence; and Richard Hickox rallies the BBC Welsh forces to the same dizzy heights that marked out the previous volume in this series as one of the best discs of 2008. Outstandingly vivid sound too, with a perfectly judged balance throughout. Miss at your peril, and the good news is that Chandos have more Leighton lined up for the spring.

The British composer Kenneth Leighton’s music communicates so directly, yet rarely reaches concerts. See what you’re missing with his choral second symphony of the mid-1970s. Sarah Fox’s bright soprano suits the work’s rugged beauty, and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, under Hickox, feast on Leighton’s bold instrumental colours. A splendid recording
The Times

A Hoden

I Koyama