It seems appropriate as Christmas approaches (at the time of writing) to listen to Advent music. Peter Phillips and Benjamin Nicholas, both of whom have glittering musical backgrounds, lead the Choir of Merton College, Oxford. The album covers a vast array of genres, from 16th century William Byrd and Tomás Luis de Victoria to modern day John Tavener and Gabriel Jackson. Each track has its own symbolic reference to the preparation made at Christmas time.
There are seven tracks which have been commissioned by the Merton College Chaplain, one of which is Howard Skepmton’s ‘O Sapienta’, a beautiful short piece, sung with great feeling. My favourite without a doubt is ‘Es Ist ein Ros entsprungen’, by Praetorius, arr. Sandström. This beautiful arrangement of the well-known piece emcompasses all of the main components in the build up to Christmas, from the anticipation to the hopes and fears of what will come.
The choirs’ diction is excellent; the listener can hear the words! This can be a rare occurrence on choral music recordings.
Store this one up. Next Christmas, ask for this.