The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge return to disc with three 20th Century European masterpieces: Poulenc’s Mass in G Major (last recorded by the choir over 40 years ago under the iconic George Guest), Kodály’s Missa Brevis, and Janáček’s Otčenáš (Our Father). All works make use of highly distinctive musical languages, yet all three are tonal and highly accessible.
This disc follows the choir’s debut release of works by Jonathan Harvey Deo (SIGCD456), which was awarded the choral prize at the 2017 BBC Music Magazine Awards.
Performing as a conductor and organist in North America, South Africa, Far East, and throughout Europe, Andrew Nethsingha has been Director of Music at St John’s College, Cambridge since 2007. His innovations at St John’s have included weekly webcasts and a termly Bach cantata series. His recordings for Chandos have been well reviewed.
Andrew Nethsingha received his early musical training as a chorister at Exeter Cathedral, where his father was organist for over a quarter of a century. He later studied at the Royal College of Music, where he won seven prizes, and at St John’s College, Cambridge. He held Organ Scholarships under Christopher Robinson, at St George’s Windsor, and George Guest, at St John’s, before becoming Assistant Organist at Wells Cathedral. He was subsequently Director of Music at Truro and Gloucester Cathedrals. Other recent positions have included Artistic Director of the Gloucester Three Choirs Festival and Musical Director of the Gloucester Choral Society.
He has served as President of the Cathedral Organists’ Association. He has worked with some of the UK’s leading orchestras. Andrew’s concerts with the Philharmonia Orchestra have included many of the major choral works: Mahler’s 8th Symphony, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Britten War Requiem, Brahms Requiem, Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius and The Kingdom, Walton Belshazzar’s Feast, Poulenc Gloria and Duruflé Requiem. He has also worked with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the London Mozart Players, Britten Sinfonia, the Aarhus Symfoniorkester and the BBC Concert Orchestra. Recent conducting engagements have included the BBC Proms, Amsterdam Concertgebouw and Tokyo Suntory Hall. He regularly runs choral courses in various countries, including France and the U.S.A.
Zoltán Kodály was a Hungarian composer, born in 1905. If you would read Kodály's biography, you could only do so with increasing astonishment. Not only did he reach the honarable age of 84, throughout his whole life he remained astoundingly prolific - and with great success. Moreover, besides his work as a composer, Kodály was active as a conductor, (ethno-)musicologist, pedagogue, linguist, and philosopher. And in each of these areas, he had a pioneering role, always with exceptional passion and dedication. To name but one example: together with his friend Belá Bartók he worked on a ten volume reference guide to Hungarian music, which appeared from 1951 with each volume spanning more than a thousand pages.
Yet, Kodály gained acclaim for his compositions as well, with his Psalmus hungaricus (1923) en his opera Háry János (1926) as the pinnacles of his musical career. The core of his body of work consists of vocal music, in particular works for choir, but his instrumental music is just as impressive. His master piece Laudes Organi, written one year before his death, truly proves that Kodály's creative energy stayed with him to the bitter end.