If your idea of the English anthem is something dry and dusty, this might well change your mind. It’s two decades since the late John Scott’s pioneering series presented the traditional staples of the Anglican church in eight fine volumes for Hyperion. Now the label is back, this time with the vigorous Stephen Layton at the helm of his outstanding Choir of Trinity College Cambridge, and the results are glorious.
There’s no stated rhyme or reason behind the choice of repertoire here, nor is there a suggestion of how many volumes the series might run to, but the programming of “Anthems Volume 1” largely avoids the familiar. Spanning almost 200 years of ecclesiastical music-making, there’s a distinctive focus on ambitious, meaty repertoire and a noticeable leaning towards the contemporary.
The biggest name here is probably Elgar, who despite being Catholic composed a pair of extended anthems. The first – Great is the Lord – was premiered in Westminster Abbey in 1912 and employs the same musical language as his great English oratorios, The Apostles and The Kingdom