Sir Stephen Cleobury enjoyed many happy collaborations on CDs for Decca, EMI and the BBC. In 2012 a new CD label was launched at King’s. Sir Stephen said:
“I am delighted that this new development will allow the Choir to spread its wings in terms of recordings, which have been such an integral part of our life going back so many years. We will be able to record more adventurous repertoire as well as bringing a fresh look at some of the most important pieces from the choral literature.”
BRUCKNER E MINOR MASS
Bruckner’s E Minor Mass and a selection of his profoundly beautiful motets conducted by
Sir Stephen Cleobury as his last album at King’s, recorded only a few months before his death. Perhaps the deepest and most spiritual of Bruckner’s masses, the Mass in E minor is unusual in its scoring for choir, wind and brass. It is recorded here by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in King’s College Chapel.
The album is accompanied by a specially-commissioned Appreciation for Sir Stephen, written by Professor Iain Fenlon, who would have given the address at Sir Stephen’s memorial service in May, had it not been cancelled due to the COVID situation.
“I like the sense of rawness, of urgency. What Cleobury gets so effectively from this choir is the sense that everyone’s singing their socks off. As a valedictory farewell, that’s incredibly moving.”
… I’m absolutely in awe of the engineering on this recording. … the vertical clarity you can hear through the counterpoint is absolute. There’s never a moment when it sounds smudged. This is the moment when the King’s trebles really come into their own – the Locus Iste, the second of Bruckner’s two Ave Marias, those really radiant haloed soft-focused motets which are really so much the bread and butter of Evensong at King’s. There’s a real sense of tradition in the way they sing them. They hang in the air – they’re just glorious.”
Alexandra Coghlan, BBC Radio 3 Record Review
“All in all, it’s the perfect final recording from the late Stephen Cleobury with his choir of King’s College Cambridge.”
Hannah French, BBC Radio 3 Record Review Extra
ST MATTHEW PASSION
Bach’s St Matthew Passion was released on 27 March 2020 as a new recording on the King’s College record label. The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge is joined by the Academy of Ancient music and a host of outstanding soloists led by alumnus James Gilchrist, conducted by the late Sir Stephen Cleobury.
Recorded during Holy Week 2019, it is Sir Stephen’s last performance of the monumental work before his untimely death in November last year. The album comes as a 3-CD set in high-resolution audio and 5.1 surround-sound. It includes a 60-page booklet featuring photographs from the recording, a brand-new commentary on the Passion by King’s alumnus, the Bach scholar John Butt, and a full translation by Michael Marissen.
“There’s a tension, a theatricality to [Cleobury’s] performance that thrills, and the bigger choruses have a weight and oomph that’s emotionally overwhelming.”
“The choir makes a splendid sound in the crowd choruses and the boys provide a creamy top line.” Gramophone
THE CENTENARY SERVICE
Presented in a stunning hardback book with over 50 pages of notes, commentary and photography, this is the definitive account of a piece of musical history.
In 2018 Sir Stephen Cleobury and the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge celebrated 100 years of Nine Lessons & Carols, the iconic festival that is enjoyed by millions around the world each year at Christmas time. Now this landmark event is available in its entirety on the official anniversary release from the King’s College label.
In addition to being the 100th anniversary, the 2018 Festival marked the final time that Sir Stephen Cleobury, the College’s longstanding Director of Music, would lead the service before his retirement in September 2019. During his tenure, Sir Stephen introduced the tradition of commissioning a new carol each year, and this release includes the world premiere of O mercy divine, written by current Master of the Queen’s Music, Judith Weir.
Captured in the highest quality and presented in a stunning hardback book with over 50 pages of notes, commentary and photography documenting the festival’s legacy, A Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols: The Centenary Service is the definitive account of the anniversary and the opportunity to experience a once in a lifetime piece of musical history.
EVENSONG LIVE 2019
A glorious collection of choral music by British composers, recorded live during services of Choral Evensong in King’s College Chapel.
A glorious collection of choral music by British composers, recorded live during services of Choral Evensong in King’s College Chapel. Popular anthems like Hubert Parry’s I was glad and Patrick Hadley’s My beloved spake are included alongside settings of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis through the centuries. Included here are settings from Byrd’s Great Service and Weelkes’ Short Service, alongside Stanford’s setting in G and William Mathias’ Jesus College Service.
Recorded between the summers of 2018 and 2019, this selection presents music from Sir Stephen’s final year as Director of Music at King’s College after 37 years in post.
“The recorded sound is excellent – another fine showcase.”
– Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3
A double-disc set of orchestral, choral and organ music by one of the most distinguished English composers of the 20th century. Herbert Howells’ An English Mass is presented by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge with the Britten Sinfonia, recorded in the sublime acoustic of King’s College Chapel. Alongside the work is the magnificent orchestrated Te Deum from the Collegium Regale service, and a premiere recording of the Magnificat from the same service, orchestrated by John Rutter. For both these recordings, the Choir and orchestra are joined additionally by the King’s College mixed voice choir, King’s Voices.
Howells’ completed Cello Concerto is performed by former King’s chorister Guy Johnston, one of the UK’s best solo cellists, with the Britten Sinfonia directed by King’s alumnus Christopher Seaman. Also recorded in King’s College Chapel, the surround-sound recording presents this glorious, but lesser-known work in a way never before heard, but in an environment perfectly suited to Howells’ music. Stephen Cleobury rounds off the second part of the album with three of Howells’ best-known organ works, performed on the recently-restored Harrison & Harrison organ, also presented here in surround-sound.
Accompanying the album are specially-written essays by two of the foremost experts on the composer. Paul Spicer explores how the thrilling Te Deum came about as the result of a bet between Howells and the Dean of King’s, and the subsequent canticle settings for cathedrals and foundations across the land for which Howells became so well-known. An English Mass, in contrast, is one of Howells’ darkest religious works, with an agonising and troubled presentation of much of the Mass, and Spicer’s essay considers Howells’ state of mind and some of the possible reasons for this. Jonathan Clinch’s essay describes the fascinating journey of completing Howells’ Cello Concerto, giving a remarkable insight into the mind of the composer and the history of the work itself.
THE MUSIC OF KING’S: CHORAL FAVOURITES FROM CAMBRIDGE is a celebration of choral music throughout the ages and around the world. Its track list spans more than 400 years of composition, with compositions from countries including Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Norway, America and China.
For this latest album on the Choir’s own label, Stephen Cleobury has chosen to present a selection psalms, folksongs and other exceptional works that have stood the test of time alongside some of the Choir’s contemporary favourites. Highlights include Ola Gjeilo’s setting of Ubi caritas, Antonio Lotti’s Crucifixus and James Erb’s arrangement of the much-loved American Folksong Shenandoah.
“The pieces we have chosen for this album reflect something, though not all, of the breadth of the Choir’s repertoire. That they should be chiefly liturgical is natural, since the Choir’s main work consists in singing at the daily chapel services in term time. The new ecumenical understanding which has grown up during my working life permits now the singing of the mass and canticles in Latin, anthems in that language having found their way into service lists even earlier. This enables us to look to the continent of Europe to add to the great inherited tradition of British music. We have also included some of our more rare excursions into non-liturgical and secular repertoire, here represented by American and Chinese items.”
Nine Lessons and Carols 2018
2018 marked the 100th anniversary of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, the service that takes place every year on Christmas Eve in King’s College Chapel. It is broadcast each year around the world on BBC radio and other national radio stations. In celebration of the anniversary of this iconic service, King’s has today released on its own label a special two-part album featuring a mix of brand-new performances and historical recordings not heard since the original BBC broadcasts.
The first part of this landmark album tells the story of the service’s long history, featuring Directors of Music David Willcocks, Philip Ledger and Stephen Cleobury in recordings spanning from 1958 to 2017. A selection of traditional favourites are accompanied by world premiere performances of contemporary carols, commissioned by the College from leading contemporary composers, including Judith Weir, Arvo Pärt and Thomas Adès. The second part of the album features brand-new recordings by today’s choir, including Tavener’s The Lamb, We Three Kings, and O Holy Night alongside works by James Whitbourne, Francis Jackson and Richard Elfyn Jones.
A vibrant selection of unaccompanied motets from throughout the liturgical year by one of England’s finest renaissance composers.
Second Farewell to Cambridge: Xu Zhimo poem set to music on new album
On the Backs of King’s College, by the bridge, there is a memorial stone in white marble commemorating an alumnus of the College, renowned Chinese poet Xu Zhimo. Moving to the UK in 1921, Zhimo spent a year studying at King’s, where he fell in love not only with the romantic poetry of English poets like John Keats, but also with Cambridge itself.His poem, 再别康橋 (variously translated as Second Farewell to Cambridge), is arguably his most famous poem, and is now a compulsory text on Chinese literature syllabuses, learnt by millions of schoolchildren across the country every year. The poem paints an idyllic portrait of King’s and the River Cam, and serves as a reminder of Xu Zhimo’s fondness for his time in Cambridge.While the poem has been set to music many times before, King’s has commissioned the first musical setting of the text by a mainstream classical composer. The new piece, by renowned English composer John Rutter, has been written and recorded in celebration of the near 100-year link between King’s College and Xu Zhimo, and has been released on 26 January 2018 on a new album on the King’s College Record Label.The album, featuring a selection of recordings from across the King’s Label, includes another brand-new recording of 茉莉花 (the Jasmine Flower Song) in a new arrangement by King’s Director of Music Stephen Cleobury, performed by King’s College Choir. Also on the hybrid-SACD release are selections of festive carols and extracts from the Mozart Requiem in never-before-heard surround-sound recordings from King’s College Chapel
The CD can be ordered from kingscollegerecordings.com and is available at release on Apple Music, iTunes, Netease and Baidu Music.
Written in 1965, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, with its brass, harps and exquisite solo for boy treble, provides an exhilarating invocation of the composer’s hopes for brotherhood and peace, sentiments mirrored by Vaughan Williams impassioned Dona nobis pacem. The world-renowned King’s College Choir of Cambridge is joined by Britten Sinfonia for performances of both works, conducted by Stephen Cleobury.
“Stephen Cleobury’s programme demonstrates the organ’s all-round capabilities, the
surround-sound recording giving a richer flavour of the chapel’s resonant acoustics.”
BBC Music Magazine **** / *****
“For anyone who loves the organ, or who loves the sound of King’s, this disc is
pretty much essential.” Simon Thompson, Musicweb International
“This is an indispensable release for lovers of organ music.” Cross Rhythms
“To celebrate the refurbishment of the Harrison & Harrison organ at King’s, Cambridge, the
College’s Musical Director presents a captivating sequence centred on Bach. Six of his chorale
preludes are highly absorbing, not least because Cleobury finds a different registration for
each. Franck’s Pièce héroïque mines a deep shaft of basso sonority that contrasts with the
prevailing textural delicacy, and indeed deliciousness, of the Bach and a Mendelssohn sonata.
The effect is magnificent.”
Paul Driver, Sunday Times
Live Recording of Bach St John Passion
”The line-up of soloists for this recording could hardly be improved upon…The countless
admirers of King’s College Choir will be delighted with this recording that is in every respect
worthy to stand among the finest versions of this much recorded Passion.” HRAudio.net
‘The King’s Choir’s impact is immediate. I want this for the solo line up, and for the sound of
the boys on top; on such good form.’ Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3 Record Review
Carols From King’s 60th Anniversary Edition DVD
“Every single piece is rendered magnificently by this ensemble that has performed under the direction of Cleobury for more than thirty years. The choir’s pristine intonation, penetrating rhythmic accuracy, and exquisite unified vowels unite for a beautiful yet robust choral tone. Outstanding solo contributions further elucidate Cleobury’s high level of expectation. … In short, if you are seeking another exciting resource for traditional holy day programming, this DVD is highly recommended.” Choral Journal vol.57 no. 5 (USA)Choir recording of Duruflé Requiem
Following its critically acclaimed 2014 recording of Fauré’s Requiem, the Choir records another of the great French requiems.King’s College’s recent recording of the Fauré Requiem was the best-selling core classical album of 2014. For this new recording featuring another great French Requiem, the Choir is reunited with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment to perform Maurice Duruflé’s 1947 Requiem, in the composer’s own version for soprano, choir, organ and small orchestra. The album is completed with the Messe Cum Jubilo for male voices and the Four Motets, mirroring Fauré’s Messe Basse for boys on the earlier album to which this is very much a partner.
The most famous of the Four Motets is Ubi Caritas (‘Where charity and love are, God is there’), a staple of the Choir’s Easter repertoire and was sung at 10 Downing Street when the Choir attended the Prime Minister’s Easter Reception in 2013. The Choir is joined by Patricia Bardon – youngest ever winner of the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition – for the Pie Jesu of the Requiem, with the other solo sections sung by the Choral Scholars of the Choir in accordance with Duruflé’s instructions. Former Choral Scholar Ashley Riches returns to the Choir as soloist in the Messe Cum Jubilo.***** “The choir and the King’s organ are beautifully caught in the famously generous chapel acoustics, tender and lyrical one moment, splendid and grand the next. Cleobury’s shaping of the climax of the Sanctus is perfectly judged. Each of the Four Motets on Gregorian melodies (1960) is a perfect miniature to which Cleobury devotes as much care as he does to the Requiem.” Classical Music Magazine November 2016
“You’ll get a real sense of the drama, the dynamic range of the recording, the colour and that famous acoustic, and the baleful period trumpets.” BBC Radio 3 Record Review
“Duruflé’s ingratiating Requiem is here granted a very sympathetic performance, with Stephen Cleobury balancing his choral forces with great acumen.” Classical CD Choice
Hymns from King’s
Hymns from King’s features twenty new arrangements of popular hymns by Stephen Cleobury. The hymns cover the church year, including Christmas and Easter, and Stephen has provided many new accompaniments and descants. The recording is available as a CD in the King’s College online shop or for digital download from iTunes.Formidable tunes from across the liturgical year in engaging arrangements by choirmaster Stephen Cleobury. The choir’s diction and tuning are excellent. **** BBC Music Magazine
“You are unlikely ever to hear these – or any – hymns sung so perfectly elsewhere. Every word is delivered with impeccable clarity, every vowel deliciously enunciated, every consonant precisely and unfussily placed. Musical phrases are not allowed to interrupt the flow of the words – that familiar end of line break in mid-sentence is nowhere to be found here – and musical lines are nurtured with infinite care. There is no excess of colour or emotion – the words are allowed to speak (or rather sing) for themselves – and what variety there is comes in the arrangements themselves not in the singing, which is, to a fault, unpretentious.” Marc Rochester, MusicWeb International
This new album of music by 16th century Italian composer Giovanni Gabrieli, 1615: Gabrieli in Venice, is the latest release on the College’s own label and is the first classical album ever in the new Dolby Atmos surround sound format. This technology allows overhead sound to be included in the recording, reproducing the acoustics of the Chapel with unprecedented realism. The disc is part of the ’15’ series of concerts marking the 500th anniversary of the completion of King’s Chapel in 1515. The disc includes Gabrieli’s great motet for double choir, In ecclesiis, and the rarely heard Litaniae of the Blessed Virgin Mary. King’s College Choir is joined by His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts on this recording.
“Enjoyable from end to end.” Andrew McGregor, CD Review, BBC Radio 3
“The effect is to reproduce the fine acoustics of the chapel, with the gloriously rich and pungent brass of His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts enveloping the pristine choir in enhanced surround sound. It’s like taking a gondola on the Cam.” Stephen Pritchard, The Guardian, 8 November 2015**** “King’s has used the latest Dolby Atmos technology to mix and release this disc. The effect is to reproduce the fine acoustics of the chapel, with the gloriously rich and pungent brass of His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts enveloping the pristine choir in enhanced surround sound. It’s like taking a gondola on the Cam.” The Guardian
This collection of virtuosic works is the first organ release on the College’s own label. The album brings together the first ever surround sound recordings of the great Harrison & Harrison organ in the Chapel of King’s College. The recording begins with Liszt’s dark-hued Fantasie und Fuge über den choral “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam”, a 30 minute piece in three sections which is based on a theme from Act 1 of Meyerbeer’s grand opera Le Prophète.
Julius Reubke’s magnificent Organ Sonata on the 94th Psalm explores the theme of judgement. Considered one of the pinnacles of Romantic repertoire, and thought to have been inspired by Liszt’s Fantasie und Fuge über den choral, this piece is a test of both the organ’s versatility and the
player’s pedal technique.
The album concludes with Mendelssohn’s Organ Sonata No. 6 in D minor. Based on Bach’s chorale Vater unser im Himmelreich, this piece demonstrates Mendelssohn’s consummate mastery of organ textures.
“These are outstanding performances by a great musician and the King’s Harrison & Harrison is a magnificent instrument.” Gramophone Magazine August 2015
**** “Notwithstanding the brilliance of execution and the well-rehearsed and insightful registration planning of the big outer works, in many ways it’s Cleobury’s Mendelssohn – the filling in the cake – which shows off the rich, deep mahogany colours of this most noble of English organs to best advantage. Fans of the organ and its devoted custodian will not want to be without this splendid recording.” Choir and Organ November 2015
The latest choir disc on the King’s College Choir label is an album of live music: ‘Evensong Live 2015’. The album draws from the Chapel’s weekly webcasts. The recordings were made during services using a state-of-the-art recording system concealed in the roof, vestry and organ loft, with microphones suspended discreetly above the choir stalls.
The nearly 80 minutes of music provide a cross section of some of the daily music making that happens at King’s capturing the atmosphere and acoustic of the Chapel. It also serves as a snapshot of the Choir at a specific moment in time, and presents Evensong as a living and breathing part of both the College and national heritage.
The Choir has recently released Easter from King’s, a DVD of an Easter service held in the Chapel. The service was broadcast last year by the BBC, and formed a cornerstone of its Easter programming.
The recording features seasonal hymns and readings alongside choral favourites, including Allegri’s Miserere, the Lacrimosa from Mozart’sRequiem, the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah and César Franck’s Panis Angelicus.