Partsongs – the genre reeks of rosewater, chaperones and antimacassars, of high Victorian sentiment and sentimentality. Is there really a sirens’ song still to be heard from this dustiest corner of choral repertoire?
Harry Christophers and The Sixteen think so, mustering secular songs and cycles by Stanford, Sullivan, Finzi, Maconchy and Imogen Holst to help make their case.
They aren’t the first. Tenebrae’s 2016 Music of the Spheres made a sumptuous argument for the English partsong tradition, leavening the original Victoriana with more contemporary works, and before that the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir and Paul Spicer took a deep, brave dive into Stanford (2013). The Sixteen spread their bets, tracing the form’s evolution across almost a century from the 1860s through to the 1950s.
Arthur Sullivan’s The Long Day Closes, the recording’s epilogue, sets the high-water mark: a sumptuous, bittersweet ballad, no emotion left unwallowed. But Christophers keeps a tight hold on his forces; this is an...