The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge has selected some of the best-known choral works of Samuel Sebastian Wesley for inclusion on this album, interspersing them with one of his organ works as well as a psalm chant by his father, Samuel Wesley.
Samuel Sebastian Wesley was one of the most controversial characters in nineteenth-century English music, earning a reputation for inherent stubbornness, a highly critical mindset (particularly in relation to the church), and a unique pioneering spirit. All of which were character traits which became instrumental in the creation of the wholly new styles of church music, and the renewal of church practices, for which he became known.
The wilderness and the solitary place (c. 1832) is one such work, described by the conservative critic R.J.S. Stevens as ‘a clever thing. But it is not cathedral music’. This early work comes across as a compressed oratorio, or an operatic scena, with the overt emotions and huge range of textures on display unlike anything that had ever been heard in English church music before. In contrast, Ascribe unto the Lord (1851) acts as a mature counterpart to the youthful Wilderness, and sets out in miniature the sentiments of Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah, while staying true to the melodic exuberance of the composer himself.
he Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge is one of the finest collegiate choirs in the world, known and loved by millions for its recordings, broadcasts, and concert tours. For several decades it has performed around the world, including the US, Canada, Brazil, South Africa, Japan, Australia, and of course Europe.