I hated the job but loved the music

One of the worst jobs I ever had led me to some of the greatest music I ever heard. I worked for a notable publisher affiliated with a revered English university whose music division specialized in choral music. The publisher was over 600 years old and most of their business practices dated from about the same period. Petty factions stabbed at each other like Yorkists and Lancastrians and none of those involved were as entertaining as Richard III. What did I gain from my four year term with the company? The best thing was being introduced to the music of Kenneth Leighton (1929-1988), William Mathias (1934-1992) and Gabriel Jackson (b. 1962).

If you worship in an Anglican church with a good music program you might know Leighton and Mathias’s choral music. Leighton’s Easter Sequence is frequently performed and Mathias’s “A Babe is Born” pops up on many Christmas Lessons and Carols services. Both composers excelled in every genre. Leighton’s Suite ‘Veris Gratia’ for oboe, cello and strings is a neglected masterpiece whose absence from the concert hall is criminal. He also left a great collection of solo instrumental music and superb choral works. Outside of the church, Mathias has suffered the same neglect. He is best remembered for his sacred choral music but also wrote three excellent symphonies, an excellent Harp Concerto and some of the finest organ music of his day.

Jackson is one of the most exciting voices of our day. His choral music embraces the great Anglican tradition but there are also whispers of Stravinsky, Poulenc and Tavener that make for a very compelling sound. Jackson says, “I try to write music that is clean and clear in line, texture and structure; my pieces are made of simple melodies, chords, drones and ostinatos. They are not about conflict and resolution; even when animated, they are essentially contemplative. I like repetition and ‘ritualized’ structures. Much of my work reflects an interest in Medieval techniques and ideas—I am particularly drawn to the ecstatic, panconsonant music of the early Tudor period. For me, music is the most powerful medium for transcendence, and in several pieces I have attempted a spiritual response to the great technological miracle of our time—powered flight.”

The choral music of these three composers can be heard on three must-have new recordings on the Hyperion Records label:

Leighton_Desire_cda67641

 

Kenneth Leighton
The World’s Desire
Wells Cathedral Choir
Matthew Owens, conductor
Hyperion CDA67641

 

One of England’s very best cathedral choirs in a program that includes three premiere recordings.

 

 

Mathias

William Mathias
Choral Music
Wells Cathedral Choir
Matthew Owens, conductor
Hyperion CDA67740

 

 

Another winner from the Wells Cathedral Choir, includes the premiere recording of “In Excelsis Gloria.”

 

 

jackson

Gabriel Jackson
Not no Faceless Angel
Polyphony
Stephen Layton, conductor
Hyperion CDA67708

 

 

Polyphony, the finest choir on the scene, sing Jackson’s mesmerizing music. Jump right to the third track, “Cecilia Virgo” and you will understand why there is such a buzz about Jackson.

 

 

The “What I Gained From My Lousy Job” Playlist

Leighton

Suite ‘Veris Gratia’ [Chandos]

Organ Concerto [Chandos]

Complete Organ Music [Priory]

 

Mathias

Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 [Nimbus]

Lux Aeterna [Chandos]

Organ Music [Nimbus]

 

Jackson

Sacred Choral Music [Delphian]

 

CZ

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