"A choral concert cum silver anniversary party as the Vasaris, a British choir of 30, celebrate their 25th year of artistic life with 12 world premiere recordings, nine of them commissioned especially for the occasion. The works are sacred, all designed for use at Evensong. Choral artistry, it comes as no surprise, is exceptional - this has always been a first-class outfit - and there’s new music worth hearing as well. Jonathan Dove’s ’Bless the Lord’, with its organ fanfares creating some brilliant flashes of light, is a winner, as are Jonathan Rathbone’s achingly sad ’Absalom’ and James MacMillan’s absorbing take on the emotional implications of the Annunciation. MacMillan really gives the singers a chance to shine. Listen to how they dig into the haunting text from Michael Symmons Roberts’s ’Her Maker’s Maker’. Will Todd’s wordless ’Angel Song’ offers moments of quiet ecstasy, while Ward Swingle’s graceful ’Give us This Day’ acts as a final blessing on the whole endeavour. Yes, there are some snoozers interspersed with the rest, but nothing’s that bad, and the Vasaris are always worth a listen. For choral aficionados, this might be a nice opportunity to check out some new repertoire."
American Record Guide - November/December 2005
"Vasari Singers are one of the most critically acclaimed chamber choirs in the UK. Led by the charismatic Jeremy Backhouse, the choir has performed in most of London’s major concert venues and recorded everything from Lotti to Swingle, picking up Gramophone nominations and much audience appreciation along the way.
The group’s latest project is 10 new commissioned works from the likes of Gabriel Jackson, Will Todd, Stephen Barlow and Jeremy Filsell, which received their premiere in May at St John’s, Smith Suqare. The brief stated that each work should be suitable as an anthem in an Anglican cathedral evensong and should reflect the 21st century
Nine of the commissions appear on this lovely disc from Signum Classics, recorded at Tonbridge School Chapel, along with three additional pieces by Jonathan Dove, James MacMillan and Jonathan Rathbone.
Each piece is pleasingly different -from the vibrant organ and exultant voices of Dove’s Bless the Lord, O My Soul to the stunningly eerie atmosphere of Angel Song II by Will Todd.
Most of the pieces are either accompanied by Jeremy Filsell on organ, or a capella, leaving room for the listener to wallow in the gorgeousness of an assembly of luxurious voices. The soloists are top quality and the choir’s collected sensitivity, coherence and dramatic sensibility makes up for anything it occasionally lacks tonally. If you have any doubts about the 21st Century’s ability to produce anything of aesthetic worth, play this disc."
Muso - August/September 2005
"For the choir’s 25th anniversary ten composers were asked to write an anthem hat could look beyond the liturgy to appeal to our multi-cultural society. It’s an interesting and variable collection and I wholeheartedly applaud the concept. Will Todd’s appealing Angel Song II. Jeremy Filsell’s Mysterium Christi and Philip Moore’s I saw him standing are particularly memorable. Ward Swingle’s tuneful Give us this day is bound to be popular. Two non-commissions – Jonathan Dove’s Bless the Lord, O my Soul and MacMillan’s Chosen – are outstanding. The choir sings with feeling and perception – the MacMillan is suberb."
Choir and Organ - November/December 2005
"...The recorded sound is first class. ...this is a most stimulating collection of music and it is hard to imagine that it could be performed better than by Jeremy Backhouse and his superb choir. I congratulate them on their silver jubilee and on the imaginative way in which they have marked it; a way that I hope will benefit other choirs as well. This outstanding CD is already on my shortlist for Recordings of the Year and I recommend it enthusiastically."
Music Web International
"Modern settings delivered by virtuoso singers for whom many were written.
A syrupy piece of kitsch by Ward Swingle is the odd one out here. The remainder of the disc is given over to English composers but the one thing linking all 12 anthems is that they have been composed since 2000. Only Todd’s wordless evocation of the singing of angels might be seen as using choral voices in a non-traditional way. As for the others, each relies on conventional choral devices, leaving the rest to the musicality and technical assurance of the singers themselves.
In this respect the Vasari Singers and Jeremy Backhouse have few equals. For the past quarter of a century that they have been a consistently outstanding choir and a majority of these pieces were commissioned for their 25th anniversary. One is sumptuous of the words of the Sufi mystic Al-Junaid that Gabriel Jackson that tailored to the unique strengths of the Vasaris, which he describes as ‘transparent, refined and meticulous, but also possessed of great fervour and vitality’.
Those qualities are much in evidence here in music ranging from the harrowing grief of Johnathon Rathbone’s ‘Absalon, my son’ to the exhilarating ‘Bless the Lord’ by Jonathon Dove. Only Stephen Barlow’s ‘When I See on Rood’ seems to have stretched the choir to its limits. It is as much a testament to the Vasari’s supreme collective virtuosity as to Jeremy Filsell’s innate sensitivity, that Filsell’s staggeringly resourceful organ playing in three of the anthems (by Dove, MacMillan, Filsell himself) complements rather than outshines the singing."
Gramophone - November 2005
"Our great British choral tradition would be infinitely poorer but for the dedication of groups like the Vasari Singers. The choir recently commissioned 10 composers to write works "that might reflect the state of the world at the start of the new millenniun." Nine of them are recorded here for the first time, with three others also new to disc. The consistently high level of invention and diverse styles contribute to the album’s overall success." ****
Classic FM Magazine - April 2005
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