William Mathias: Choral Music

William Mathias: Choral Music

by Graham WalkerGraham Walker


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Composer William Mathias, active in the second half of the 20th century, composed a good deal of choral music, some of it in his native Welsh. It's quite varied, and although it has been somewhat neglected since later crowd-pleasers came along, it's worth a revival on the evidence here. Best of all are a pair of secular works, the "Learsongs" of 1988, and the "Riddles" of the preceding year. The texts, by Edward Lear in the former case and from medieval literature (adapted into modern English) in the latter, are humorous, but the music, in addition to being witty, thoroughly inhabits the subject matter of the text. These pieces are both world recorded premieres, and it's hard to think of anything they resemble (and they don't particularly resemble each other). They're worth the price of admission by themselves, but the sacred choral works are equally distinctive. They share a general style, with modal and quartal harmonies, but each one -- the joyous "A May Magnificat, Op. 79, No. 2," the Mozartian "Ave verum corpus," the lively "A Babe is Born, Op. 55" -- has its own flavor. The Welsh-language "Y nefoedd sydd yn datgan gogoniant Duw" (The heavens declare the glory of God) packs a lot into its nine minutes, and the entire album is full of surprises. The music fits the voices of the St. John's Voices and the Gentlemen of St. John's, less formal than their more venerable collegiate choir counterparts, just perfectly, and director Graham Walker keeps his young choristers focused on the text. This is a fine addition to British choral collections.

Product Details

Release Date: 01/10/2020
Label: Naxos
UPC: 0747313416271
catalogNumber: 8574162
Rank: 57832


  1. A May Magnificat for chorus & chimes, Op. 79/2
  2. Ave verum corpus, for chorus
  3. Y nefoedd sydd yn datgan gogoniant Duw (The Heavens Declare the Glory of God), for chorus & organ
  4. Learsongs, for chorus & piano, 4 hands
  5. Jesus College Service (Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis), for chorus & organ, Op. 53
  6. A Babe Is Born, for chorus & organ, Op. 55
  7. Riddles, for chorus, bells & piano

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